I have only just begun to brake the surface of the study of classical iconography in relation to medieval and contemporary art. A subject base that is extremely large and fairy expensive to study.
But one thing has occurred to me thus far. That by braking the ‘code’ ( if you forgive the word ) of iconography or symbolica we can in fact miss the point of a statement or meaning behind a painting or artwork. To try and further explain my thoughts on this I will take a small turn of the road of education. If one sees a painting and one is able to understand that there is some short of information stored with in the symbolism , but one is unable to bring this information immediately to consciousness one is more likely to investigate the information. To say this in another way, If Bosch wanted us to immediately know what was being done within the art work, then he would have put definitions on it, which I might add that be did at times, as in the study of his ” The stone of folly ” or sometimes called ” The Extraction of the Stone of Madness “, the inscription reads, “Meester snyt die Keye ras - myne name is lubbert das” (Master, cut away the stone – my name is Lubbert Das). Lubbert Das was a comical character in Dutch literature at the time. But even past the inscription, there is much more information with in the symbolica.
On the front of the triptych ” The Garden of early Delights ” we see the world with in it’s creation , this again gives us definition as to the information with in, but does not show or tell us all. From my own experience , one watches the painting and is ‘drawn-in’, and in that way one begins to play with the information or images, in turn one starts to travel though it, one is now have a conversation with the information or images. Statements are made, questions asked and things begin to unfold. It is this relationship that is the intent behind iconography. But if one already knows all that is with-in the information behind the symbolism , one is not able to reach this form of interaction with the information.
It is our own journey within the artwork that is the point , and where the most information is.