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Hieronymus Bosch

Hieronymus Bosch

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Hieronymus Bosch (ˌhaɪ.əˈrɒnɨməs ˈbɒʃ, ɦijeːˈɾoːnimʏs ˈbɔs; born Jeroen Anthoniszoon van Aken jəˈrun ɑnˈtoːnɪsoːn vɑn ˈaːkə(n); c. 1450 – 9 August 1516), was a Dutch
Dutch people
The Dutch people are an ethnic group native to the Netherlands. They share a common culture and speak the Dutch language. Dutch people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in Suriname, Chile, Brazil, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the United...

 painter
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

. His work is known for its use of fantastic imagery to illustrate moral and religious concepts and narratives.

Life


Hieronymus Bosch was born Hieronymus (or Jeroen, respectively the Latin and Middle Dutch
Middle Dutch
Middle Dutch is a collective name for a number of closely related West Germanic dialects which were spoken and written between 1150 and 1500...

 form of the name "Jerome") van Aken (meaning "from Aachen
Aachen
Aachen has historically been a spa town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Aachen was a favoured residence of Charlemagne, and the place of coronation of the Kings of Germany. Geographically, Aachen is the westernmost town of Germany, located along its borders with Belgium and the Netherlands, ...

"). He signed a number of his paintings as Bosch . The name derives from his birthplace, , which is commonly called "Den Bosch".

Little is known of Bosch’s life or training. He left behind no letters or diaries, and what has been identified has been taken from brief references to him in the municipal records of , and in the account books of the local order of the Brotherhood of Our Lady
Brotherhood of Our Lady
The Illustrious Brotherhood of Our Blessed Lady was founded in 1318 in 's-Hertogenbosch to gain control over the veneration of the Mother of God. The brotherhood was organized around a carved wooden image of the Virgin Mary in St John’s Cathedral in 's-Hertogenbosch...

. Nothing is known of his personality or his thoughts on the meaning of his art. Bosch’s date of birth has not been determined with certainty. It is estimated at on the basis of a hand drawn portrait (which may be a self-portrait) made shortly before his death in 1516. The drawing shows the artist at an advanced age, probably in his late sixties.


Bosch was born and lived all his life in and near , a city in the Duchy of Brabant
Duchy of Brabant
The Duchy of Brabant was a historical region in the Low Countries. Its territory consisted essentially of the three modern-day Belgian provinces of Flemish Brabant, Walloon Brabant and Antwerp, the Brussels-Capital Region and most of the present-day Dutch province of North Brabant.The Flag of...

. His grandfather, Jan van Aken
Jan van Aken
Jan van Aken was a Dutch Golden Age painter and engraver.-Biography:Van Aken has been frequently confused with the celebrated German painter Johann van Achen of Cologne. Not much is known of his paintings but Bartsch enumerates twenty-one of his etchings, which are touched in the manner of Herman...

 (died 1454), was a painter and is first mentioned in the records in 1430. It is known that Jan had five sons, four of whom were also painters. Bosch’s father, Anthonius van Aken (died c. 1478) acted as artistic adviser to the Brotherhood of Our Lady
Brotherhood of Our Lady
The Illustrious Brotherhood of Our Blessed Lady was founded in 1318 in 's-Hertogenbosch to gain control over the veneration of the Mother of God. The brotherhood was organized around a carved wooden image of the Virgin Mary in St John’s Cathedral in 's-Hertogenbosch...

. It is generally assumed that either Bosch’s father or one of his uncles taught the artist to paint, but none of their works survive. Bosch first appears in the municipal record in 1474, when he is named along with two brothers and a sister.

's-Hertogenbosch was a flourishing city in fifteenth century Brabant
Duchy of Brabant
The Duchy of Brabant was a historical region in the Low Countries. Its territory consisted essentially of the three modern-day Belgian provinces of Flemish Brabant, Walloon Brabant and Antwerp, the Brussels-Capital Region and most of the present-day Dutch province of North Brabant.The Flag of...

, in the south of the present-day Netherlands, at the time part of the Burgundian Netherlands
Burgundian Netherlands
In the history of the Low Countries, the Burgundian Netherlands refers to a number of Imperial and French fiefs ruled in personal union by the House of Valois-Burgundy and their Habsburg heirs in the period from 1384 to 1482...

, and during his lifetime passing through marriage to the Habsburg
Habsburg
The House of Habsburg , also found as Hapsburg, and also known as House of Austria is one of the most important royal houses of Europe and is best known for being an origin of all of the formally elected Holy Roman Emperors between 1438 and 1740, as well as rulers of the Austrian Empire and...

s. In 1463, 4,000 houses in the town were destroyed by a catastrophic fire, which the then (approximately) 13-year-old Bosch presumably witnessed. He became a popular painter in his lifetime and often received commissions from abroad. In 1488 he joined the highly respected Brotherhood of Our Lady, an arch-conservative religious group of some 40 influential citizens of , and 7,000 'outer-members' from around Europe.

Sometime between 1479 and 1481, Bosch married Aleyt Goyaerts van den Meerveen, who was a few years older than the artist. The couple moved to the nearby town of Oirschot, where his wife had inherited a house and land from her wealthy family.

An entry in the accounts of the Brotherhood of Our Lady records Bosch’s death in 1516. A funeral mass served in his memory was held in the church of Saint John on 9 August of that year.

Art



Bosch produced several triptych
Triptych
A triptych , from tri-= "three" + ptysso= "to fold") is a work of art which is divided into three sections, or three carved panels which are hinged together and can be folded shut or displayed open. It is therefore a type of polyptych, the term for all multi-panel works...

s. Among his most famous is The Garden of Earthly Delights
The Garden of Earthly Delights
The Garden of Earthly Delights is a triptych painted by the early Netherlandish master Hieronymus Bosch , housed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid since 1939. Dating from between 1490 and 1510, when Bosch was about 40 or 50 years old, it is his best-known and most ambitious work...

. This painting, for which the original title has not survived, depicts paradise with Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were, according to the Genesis creation narratives, the first human couple to inhabit Earth, created by YHWH, the God of the ancient Hebrews...

 and many wondrous animals on the left panel, the earthly delights with numerous nude figures and tremendous fruit and birds on the middle panel, and hell
Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

 with depictions of fantastic punishments of the various types of sin
Sin
In religion, sin is the violation or deviation of an eternal divine law or standard. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God In religion, sin (also called peccancy) is the violation or deviation...

ners on the right panel. When the exterior panels are closed the viewer can see, painted in grisaille
Grisaille
Grisaille is a term for painting executed entirely in monochrome or near-monochrome, usually in shades of grey. It is particularly used in large decorative schemes in imitation of sculpture. Many grisailles in fact include a slightly wider colour range, like the Andrea del Sarto fresco...

, God creating the Earth. These paintings—especially the Hell panel—are painted in a comparatively sketchy manner which contrasts with the traditional Flemish style
Flemish painting
Flemish painting flourished from the early 15th century until the 17th century. Flanders delivered the leading painters in Northern Europe and attracted many promising young painters from neighbouring countries. These painters were invited to work at foreign courts and had a Europe-wide influence...

 of paintings, where the smooth surface—achieved by the application of multiple transparent glazes—conceals the brushwork. In this painting, and more powerfully in works such as his Temptation of St. Anthony (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon
Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

), Bosch draws with his brush. Not surprisingly, Bosch is also one of the most revolutionary draftsmen in the history of art, producing some of the first autonomous sketches in Northern Europe.

Bosch never dated his paintings. But—unusual for the time—he seems to have signed several of them, although other signatures purporting to be his are certainly not. Fewer than 25 paintings remain today that can be attributed to him. In the late sixteenth-century, Philip II of Spain
Philip II of Spain
Philip II was King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, King of England and Ireland. He was lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories such as duke or count....

 acquired many of Bosch's paintings, including some probably commissioned and collected by Spaniards active in Bosch's hometown; as a result, the Prado Museum in Madrid
Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

 now owns The Garden of Earthly Delights, the circular tabletop of The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things
The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things
The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things is a painting attributed to Hieronymus Bosch, completed around 1500 or later. The painting is oil on wood panels...

, the The Haywain Triptych
The Haywain Triptych
Haywain is a triptych panel painting by Hieronymus Bosch in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain, painted after 1510. This dating is based on the dendrochronological research of the panels. The centre panel measures 140 by 100 cm, and the wings measure 147 by 66 cm. A second version is in El...

and The Stone Operation
The Extraction of the Stone of Madness (The Cure of Folly)
Cutting the Stone, also called The Extraction of the Stone of Madness or The Cure of Folly, is a painting by Hieronymus Bosch in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, completed around 1494 or later....

.

Interpretations


In the twentieth century, when changing artistic tastes made artists like Bosch more palatable to the European imagination, it was sometimes argued that Bosch’s art was inspired by heretical points of view (e.g., the ideas of the Cathars and putative Adamites
Adamites
The Adamites, or Adamians, were adherents of an Early Christian sect that flourished in North Africa in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries, but knew later revivals.-Ancient Adamites:...

) as well as of obscure hermetic practices. Again, since Erasmus had been educated at one of the houses of the Brethren of the Common Life
Brethren of the Common Life
The Brethren of the Common Life was a Roman Catholic pietist religious community founded in the 14th century by Gerard Groote, formerly a successful and worldly educator who had had a religious experience and preached a life of simple devotion to Jesus Christ...

 in 's-Hertogenbosch, and the town was religiously progressive, some writers have found it unsurprising that strong parallels exist between the caustic writing of Erasmus and the often savage painting of Bosch. "Although the Brethren remained loyal to the Pope, they still saw it as their duty to denounce the abuses and scandalous behaviour of many priests: the corruption which both Erasmus and Bosch satirised in their work".
Others, following a strain of Bosch-interpretation datable already to the sixteenth-century, continued to think his work was created merely to titillate and amuse, much like the "grotteschi
Grotesque
The word grotesque comes from the same Latin root as "Grotto", meaning a small cave or hollow. The original meaning was restricted to an extravagant style of Ancient Roman decorative art rediscovered and then copied in Rome at the end of the 15th century...

" of the Italian Renaissance
Italian Renaissance
The Italian Renaissance began the opening phase of the Renaissance, a period of great cultural change and achievement in Europe that spanned the period from the end of the 13th century to about 1600, marking the transition between Medieval and Early Modern Europe...

. While the art of the older masters was based in the physical world of everyday experience, Bosch confronts his viewer with, in the words of the art historian Walter Gibson, "a world of dreams [and] nightmares in which forms seem to flicker and change before our eyes." In one of the first known accounts of Bosch’s paintings, in 1560 the Spaniard Felipe de Guevara wrote that Bosch was regarded merely as "the inventor of monster
Monster
A monster is any fictional creature, usually found in legends or horror fiction, that is somewhat hideous and may produce physical harm or mental fear by either its appearance or its actions...

s and chimeras
Chimera (mythology)
The Chimera or Chimaera was, according to Greek mythology, a monstrous fire-breathing female creature of Lycia in Asia Minor, composed of the parts of multiple animals: upon the body of a lioness with a tail that ended in a snake's head, the head of a goat arose on her back at the center of her...

". In the early seventeenth century, the Dutch art historian Karel van Mander described Bosch’s work as comprising "wondrous and strange fantasies"; however, he concluded that the paintings are "often less pleasant than gruesome to look at."

In recent decades, scholars have come to view Bosch's vision as less fantastic, and accepted that his art reflects the orthodox religious belief systems of his age. His depictions of sinful humanity, his conceptions of Heaven and Hell are now seen as consistent with those of late medieval didactic literature and sermons. Most writers attach a more profound significance to his paintings than had previously been supposed, and attempt to interpret it in terms of a late medieval morality. It is generally accepted that Bosch’s art was created to teach specific moral and spiritual truths in the manner of other Northern Renaissance
Northern Renaissance
The Northern Renaissance is the term used to describe the Renaissance in northern Europe, or more broadly in Europe outside Italy. Before 1450 Italian Renaissance humanism had little influence outside Italy. From the late 15th century the ideas spread around Europe...

 figures, such as the poet Robert Henryson
Robert Henryson
Robert Henryson was a poet who flourished in Scotland in the period c. 1460–1500. Counted among the Scots makars, he lived in the royal burgh of Dunfermline and is a distinctive voice in the Northern Renaissance at a time when the culture was on a cusp between medieval and renaissance sensibilities...

, and that the images rendered have precise and premeditated significance. According to Dirk Bax, Bosch's paintings often represent visual translations of verbal metaphors and puns drawn from both biblical and folkloric sources. However, the conflict of interpretations that his works still elicit raise profound questions about the nature of "ambiguity" art of his period.

Some writers attempt to interpret his imagery using the language of Freudian psychology. However, such theses are commonly rejected; according to Gibson, "what we choose to call the libido
Libido
Libido refers to a person's sex drive or desire for sexual activity. The desire for sex is an aspect of a person's sexuality, but varies enormously from one person to another, and it also varies depending on circumstances at a particular time. A person who has extremely frequent or a suddenly...

 was denounced by the medieval church as original sin
Original sin
Original sin is, according to a Christian theological doctrine, humanity's state of sin resulting from the Fall of Man. This condition has been characterized in many ways, ranging from something as insignificant as a slight deficiency, or a tendency toward sin yet without collective guilt, referred...

; what we see as the expression of the subconscious
Subconscious
The term subconscious is used in many different contexts and has no single or precise definition. This greatly limits its significance as a definition-bearing concept, and in consequence the word tends to be avoided in academic and scientific settings....

 mind was for the Middle Ages the promptings of God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 or the Devil
Devil
The Devil is believed in many religions and cultures to be a powerful, supernatural entity that is the personification of evil and the enemy of God and humankind. The nature of the role varies greatly...

."

Debates on attribution


The exact number of Bosch's surviving works has been a subject of considerable debate. He signed only seven of his paintings, and there is uncertainty whether all the paintings once ascribed to him were actually from his hand. It is known that from the early sixteenth century onwards numerous copies and variations of his paintings began to circulate. In addition, his style was highly influential, and was widely imitated by his numerous followers.

Over the years, scholars have attributed to him fewer and fewer of the works once thought to be his, and today only 25 are definitively attributed to him.

External links