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Would you prefer to look at heaven or hell?
When faced with intense earthly delights and paradisical pleasures or the twisted agony of hell, where would your gaze go?
According to a study by Madrid’s El Prado museum and the Miguel Hernandez University, Elche, viewers of the 16th century “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch look longer and harder at the panel representing hell.
“We thought about the fact that this is one of the iconic paintings in the museum that has numerous scenes to look at, and we asked ourselves: can you find out where we look?" says Carlos Chaguaceda, Communication director of Prado Museum.
"And it turns out that yes, with glasses that track your gaze, your pupil. You can know where we look and with what intensity we look. We talked to the University of Elche and they brought the glasses and in conclusion we look longer and more intensely and with a more dilated pupil to the panel of hell than to the zone of paradise."
Investigators from Elche University’s Institute for Bioengineering in collaboration with El Prado handed out specially designed glasses that would monitor the eye movements and pupil dilation of visitors to room 56A of the museum, home to the famous and fascinating triptych.
52 people took part in the study which was released in June but was conducted at the beginning of the year.
"In this story it seems that if the intention of Bosch was to warn us of the risks we take, it seems that he succeeded because we are all left thinking about how bad we are going to have it or the threats that hell has for us if we do not stop sinning,” says Chaguaceda.
The glasses recorded the direction of the head, direction of eyes and saccadic movements which are the rapid simultaneous movements of both eyes. The size of the viewer’s pupils were also measured.
The results showed that the average observation time of the right hand, darker “Hell” panel was 33.2 seconds per square metre compared to 26 seconds for the central table and 16 seconds for the Paradise panel.
But these results are only the total time of viewing , visitors are sometimes flitting their gaze between panels.
When the study looked into viewing that was static to one panel the differences grew.
This fixation time on average is 30.9 seconds per square metre, compared to 21.6 seconds for the central panel and 12.6 seconds for the left-hand Paradise panel.
The El Prado says that the room containing the “Garden of Earthly Delights” is the museum's most visited and the room where people stay longest..
Posted on 12 Jul 2023 07:38 link