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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Bosch, Hieronymus


The Last judgement
c.1482
oil on wood triptych
Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, Austria

Left panel (167.7 x 60 cm): The left panel depicts the Garden of Eden of the biblical history.
Central panel (164 x 127 cm): The central painting depicts a Last Judgement, basing on John's Book of Revelation. Above is Christ as a judge, surrounded by Mary, St. John the Evangelist and the apostles.
Right panel (167.7 x 60 cm): Thematically, the hell at right is not different from the Last Judgement. Satan, in the center, receives the damned souls.

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.

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, his art reflects mysterious practices of the Middle Ages. No matter what explanation and comprehension of his art might be, he 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.

He 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 his 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, he 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.