As I drew heavily on my Meerschaum this week, pondering the capitulation against Crystal Palace, my thoughts drifted to the Netherlandish painter Hieronymous Bosch. Are you aware of his work? In particular his triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights from around 1510.
This painting in oil on oak is in three parts, intended to be read from left to right. The first panel depicts God giving Eve to Adam, the second one is panorama of all sorts of delightful naughtiness and the final panel is a violent hellscape with individuals enduring all sorts of unspeakable torment. Art historians and other assorted scholarly layabouts have given all sorts of potential interpretations of the work over the centuries.
But I can tell you now I have only gone and bloody well cracked it. It is a premonition of Arsenal’s 2016-2017 season. Forgive the use of players’ nicknames below in my theory.
The first panel shows the Garden of Eden, with God presenting Eve to Adam. According to art historian Wilhelm Fraenger:
“As though enjoying the pulsation of the living blood and as though too he were setting a seal on the eternal and immutable communion between this human blood and his own. This physical contact between the Creator and Eve is repeated even more noticeably in the way Adam’s toes touch the Lord’s foot. Here is the stressing of a rapport: Adam seems indeed to be stretching to his full length in order to make contact with the Creator. And the billowing out of the cloak around the Creator’s heart, from where the garment falls in marked folds and contours to Adam’s feet, also seems to indicate that here a current of divine power flows down, so that this group of three actually forms a closed circuit, a complex of magical energy”
As we can clearly see, we Arsenal fans are God, and we are presenting the manager Adam with Granit Xhaka, the Eve figure. Other Arsenal players are represented here in the form of animals such as a strange horned white giraffe (Mertesacker), an elephant (Gabriel), a unicorn (Lucas) and a strange two legged cocker spaniel (Walcott).
This Eden is August, September, October and November of last year, when records show a nineteen patch unbeaten run, with a memorable win against FC Chelsea 2003.
In the second panel, people are indulging in sensory pleasures, amorous sports and activities. It is not the paradise depicted in the first panel. This is a surrealist wonderland. Figures behaving without shame. These are our players, so beloved of the self-taken photograph. It is a playground of corruption. Sir Chips Keswick can be seen in the form of an enormous trout and Gazidis can clearly be seen cavorting on a pink buffalo.
This panel is December, January and February of this year. Defeats to Everton, Manchester City, Chelsea and Watford signalled that we had entered a dimension where it would not be at all uncommon to see a man embracing a giant owl or a group of people worshipping an enormous strawberry.
We move then onto the third panel. This is March, April and May. The key figure here is The Tree Man, clearly representing the manager. His torso is supported by rotting tree trunks. His head supports a disk populated by demons. A figure in a hood bearing an arrow jammed between his buttocks (Piers Morgan) climbs a ladder into the tree-man’s central cavity.
As Mr. Wicky’s Pedia has it “The tree-man gazes outwards beyond the viewer, his conspiratorial expression a mix of wistfulness and resignation.”
The viewer witnesses scenes of torture chambers, war, and mutated animals feeding on human flesh (Chelsea fans). This hellish vision now greets us on a weekly basis, with Andros Townsend Cabaye and Milivojevic being clearly seen in the form of wolves on the right hand side of the painting.
So there you have it. Hundreds of years of theorising and they were all wrong. A new, fourth panel will have to be painted if we lose against Boro on Monday.
I have my brush at the ready.