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Little is known about his personal life, but Hyeronimus Bosch’s art has impressed many generations, to the point that there are several theories on the symbology of his paintings.

Bosch’s art is rich and detailed, and its mystical and imaginative connotation makes us even more curious about the symbology that he loved to use. Specifically, people are curious about what seemed to be his obsession: painting at least one owl in almost every artwork he created!

There are several theories on the reason why such a peculiar animal became a preeminent motif in Bosch’s art, because its significance can change according to the context.
One of the meanings that have been associated to this night animal is wisdom: owls have night vision, so they can see when almost anybody else is blind. In Bosch’s art this might mean that there is always someone wiser than you watching whatever is happening.

Another interpretation of owls in Bosch’s art is that they can also become cruel hunters and murderers, exploiting the night darkness to their convenience: this is why they can also be associated to death and cruelty.
For example, The Garden of Earthly Delights, one of his most famous paintings, which can be found at Madrid’s Prado Museum, is composed of three panels and contains several owls.

But the owls that are often painted in Bosch’s artworks appear to be pygmy owls: this animal was considered as a friend to humans, because it used to “accompany” them during their night travels, being a guide when they had to cross some dark country roads.

So, these are a only a few of the theories that have been made on Hyeronimus Bosch’s peculiar signature. Can you think of any other reasons he might have been so interested in this cute but dangerous night animal?
See you next time with other interesting art facts!