AMBIGUOUS IDENTITIES: INTERPRETING GENDER, ETHNICITY, AND RELIGION IN BOSCH'S WILGEFORTIS TRIPTYCH
Hieronymus Bosch’s Crucifixion of Saint Wilgefortis triptych offers a perplexing depiction of the saint’s legendary martyrdom. This thesis illuminates Bosch’s complex and ambiguous portrayal of various gender, ethnic, and religious identities that early modern audiences may have interpreted from St. Wilgefortis’s hagiography. These numerous identities are presented in a simultaneous manner: the figures from the medieval legend are dressed in costumes contemporary to Bosch, therefore linking Wilgefortis’s Muslim and pagan persecutors to Christ’s Jewish and Roman mockers. To create this sense of multivalency, Bosch relied upon the early modern viewer’s artistic visual literacy. This is demonstrated primarily through the unconventional emphasis of Wilgefortis’s femininity in tandem with her crucified posture as well as the dramatic poses of the male observers, which echo the traditional female mourners. Comprehensively, the gender, ethnic, and religious identities portrayed in the triptych present the viewer with a vast commentary on the spiritual and political beliefs and practices widespread throughout the Netherlands during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.