(click on picture for a closer look)
"Despite our knowledge of the iconography of the late middle ages, we have here the "pure and simple volatilization of meanings." Wilhelm Fraenger concurs, but, being an acute observer, on the lookout for anything that might "signify," he wants to force the "mute oracle" to speak nonetheless. His dictionary-machine (this "means" that) constrains each signifier to confess to a signified, thus transforming the painting into the transcription of a textual system. For others, and the best of them at that, such as Dirk Bax, the secret ofThe Garden arouses a rapt attention to its details. It is the labor of a Sysiphus, curiosity trapped in the cryptogram-rebus. This painting plays on our need to decipher. It enlists in its service a western drive to read. The meticulous proliferation of its figures calls irresistibly for indefinite narrativizing, whether it be that of a folklorist, a linguist, a historian, or a psychologist. This narrativizing, by countless erudite convolutions, makes each iconographic element tell a meaningful story. Like the discourse that is produced on the basis of dream fragments, the literature on The Garden is an endless series of stories elicited by some detail or other of the painting. Using a great many references, works, and readable documents, that literature produces its learned stories on the basis of pictorial fragments. Lettered stories seemed endlessly generated by The Garden of Delights. In point of fact, these scholarly tales (the thousand and one nights of erudition) follow, or postpone, or deny the moment when the pleasure of seeing is the death of meaning...
...The Garden cannot be reduced to univocity. It offers a multiplicity of possible itineraries, the traces of which, as in a labyrinth, would constitute so many stories, until one comes to a dead end that marks a forbidden meaning. But there is something more here. The painting seems both to provoke and frustrate each one of these interpretive pathways. It not only establishes itself within a difference in relation to all meaning; it produces its difference in making us believe that it contains hidden meaning."--from the mystic fable