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Hieronymus (Jérôme) Bosch (c. 1460 - 1518)

Related: art horror - fantastic art - gothic art - Middle Ages

Almost precisely the contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci, that emblem of the Renaissance, Hieronymus Bosch epitomizes the Middle Ages with its bitter vision of the endless ways in which man sins. [May 2006]

Garden of Earthly Delights (detail) (c.1504) - Bosch


Hieronymus Bosch (also known as Jeroen Bosch; in Spanish often called El Bosco), (c. 1460 - 1518) was a Dutch painter of the 15th century.

Bosch was a prolific painter of depictions of sin and human moral failings. His work often contains complex, imaginative, and dense use of symbolic figures and iconography, some of which was obscure even in his own time.

He is said to have been an inspiration to the surrealism movement in the 20th century.

Commonly called Bosch from his birthplace 's-Hertogenbosch, his name was actually Hieronymus van Aeken.

He was probably a pupil of Albert Ouwater, and may be called the Breughel of the 15th century, for he devoted himself to the invention of bizarre types, diableries, and scenes of the kind generally associated with Breughel, whose art is to a great extent based on Bosch's. He was a satirist much in advance of his time, and one of the most original and ingenious artists of the 15th century.

He exercised great influence on Lucas Cranach, who frequently copied his paintings. His works were much admired in Spain, especially by Philip II of Spain, at whose court Bosch painted for some time.

One of his chief works is the Last Judgment at the Berlin gallery, which also owns a little St Jerome in the Desert. The Fall of the Rebellious Angels and the St Anthony triptych are in the Brussels museum, and two important triptychs are at the Munich gallery. The Lippmann collection in Berlin contains an important Adoration of the Magi, the Antwerp museum a Passion, and a practically unknown painting from his brush is at the Naples museum.

A large number of his paintings are now at the Prado Museum in Madrid, including his most famous, the triptych The Garden of Earthly Delight.

(Note on pronunciation: the 'ch' at the end of Bosch is mute. That is the name sounds like Boss not Bosh.) --wikipedia.org, aug 2003 http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hieronymus_Bosch [2004]

Bosch's legacy

Bosch s works and his Diablerie-style were oft-imitated during the early years after his death and many of the copies survive today to confound and confuse those who would seek to give provenance to Bosch's work. Bosch s first true and recognised heir came in the form of Joachim Patinir (c.1485-1524), whose Landscape With St. Jerome Removing The Thorn From The Lion s Paw (c.1520) reflects Bosch in both its ambivalence to its subject and of course the subject itself (St. Jerome).

But it was not until the mid 16th Century and the emergence of the allegorically-inclined Pieter Breughel the Elder (c.1525/30-1569) that the world witnessed any extension of Bosch s vision beyond mere pastiche. Breughel, who lived most of his life in Antwerp and Brussels, but was probably born near Bosch s home town of s Hertogenbosch, was, like Bosch, inspired by both a complex philosophical approach to the folklore of his day. Like Bosch he recreated scenes of incredible intricacy such as his Children's Games.

Through time then, comparison with Bosch has been inevitable in anything that smacks of the perceived malevolence and apocalyptic intensity of Bosch s own work. Jacques Callot s (1592-1635) Hangman's Tree, (1633) for example and Belgian symbolist James Ensor s Christ's Entry Into Brussels in 1889, (1888) both invite such evocation.

Thence, perhaps the most common and instant comparisons are with Salvador Dali and the surrealist school which emerged in the early 20th Century, with Bosch himself labelled as a 15th Century surrealist. However, on the evidence available, it is almost certain that Hieronymus Bosch was much, much more than that. --http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/ww2/A871391 [May 2006]

The Haywain - Bosch

Hieronymus Bosch, detail from The Haywain, c1504
image sourced here. [image unrelated to subject]

The subject of sin and its punishments was central to all of Bosch's art. A famous triptych, The Haywain, contains a progression of sin, from Eden to hell, across its panels. In the central panel sin is represented through the metaphor of a large wagonload of hay for which a greedy world grasps. All the while, the wagon is being pulled by demons towards the right panel - which shows one of Bosch's earliest depictions of hell. --http://gallery.euroweb.hu/html/b/bosch/painting/triptyc2/haywain.html [Mar 2005]

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