imuse_header

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bosch, Hieronymus


Garden of Earthly Delights
c.1504
oil on panel
Central panel (Ecclesia's paradise) 220x195 cm
Left wing (The Earthly Paradise -Garden of Eden) 220x97 cm
Right wing (Hell) 220x97 cm
Museo Del Prado, Madrid, Spain

Bosch's work is known for its use of fantastic imagery to illustrate moral and religious concepts and narratives. He stands apart from the prevailing Flemish traditions in painting. The triptych depicts several biblical scenes on a grand scale. It was probably intended to illustrate the history of mankind according to medieval Christian doctrine. The masterpiece reveals Bosch at the height of his powers; in no other painting does he achieve such complexity of meaning or such vivid imagery.
The three scenes of the inner triptych are probably intended to be read chronologically from left to right. The left panel depicts God presenting to Adam the newly created Eve, while the central panel is a broad panorama of sexually engaged nude figures, fantastical animals, oversized fruit and hybrid stone formations. The right panel is a hellscape and portrays the torments of damnation.

Hieronymus, or Jerome, Bosch (c.1450-1516), who lived somewhat later than Memling, spent his entire artistic career in the small Dutch town of Hertogenbosch, from which he derived his name. His work was influenced by the Flemish school of painting, but whereas the Flemish painters created a world of serenity and reality, the world of Bosch is one of horror and imagination. His style was unique, strikingly free, and his symbolism, unforgettably vivid, remains unparalleled to this day. Marvellous and terrifying, he expresses an intense pessimism and reflects the anxieties of his time, one of social and political upheaval. Some writers saw him as a sort of 15th century surrealist and linked his name with that of Salvator Dali. For others, Bosch's art reflects mysterious practices of the Middle Ages. No matter what explanation and comprehension of his art might be, Bosch remains the most extravagant painter of his time.
He was an orthodox Catholic and a prominent member of a local religious brotherhood, but his most characteristic paintings are so bizarre that in the 17th century he was reputed to have been a heretic.

Bosch married well and was successful in his career. In his own time his fame stood high and a generation or so after his death his paintings were avidly collected by Philip II of Spain. Through the medium of prints his works reached a wider public and were imitated in a number of paintings and prints throughout the 16th century, especially in the works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Little is known of Bosch’s life. He left behind no letters or diaries, and what has been identified has been taken from brief references to him in the municipal records and local account books.

At the time of his death, Bosch was internationally celebrated as an eccentric painter of religious visions who dealt in particular with the torments of hell. Standing alone in its lifetime, his work has a timeless and modern quality that greatly endeared him to Surrealists in the twentieth century. About forty genuine examples of his work survive, but none is dated and no accurate chronology can be made.