Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450-1516) was born Hieronymus (or Jeroen) van Aken. He signed a number of his paintings as Bosch. The name derives from his birthplace, Hertogenbosch, which is commonly called "Den Bosch" and is the capital of the Dutch province of Brabant. He is well-known for the use of fantastic imagery to illustrate moral and religious concepts and narratives.

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 's-Hertogenbosch, and in the account books of the local order of the Brotherhood of Our Lady. 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 c. 1450 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 lived all his life in and near Den Bosch. His grandfather, Jan van Aken, 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 acted as artistic adviser to the Brotherhood of Our Lady. It is generally assumed that either Bosch’s father or one of his uncles taught the artist to paint, however 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.

Hertogenbosch was a flourishing city in fifteenth century Brabant, in the south of the present-day Netherlands. In 1463, 4,000 houses in the town were destroyed by a catastrophic fire, which the then (approximately) 13-year-old Bosch may have 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 Hertogenbosch, and 7,000 'outer-members' from around Europe.

Some time 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.

Bosch produced several triptychs. Among his most famous is "The Garden of Earthly Delights". This painting depicts paradise with Adam and Eve 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 with depictions of fantastic punishments of the various types of sinners on the right panel. When the exterior panels are closed the viewer can see, painted in grisaille, God creating the Earth. These paintings have a rough surface from the application of paint; this contrasts with the traditional Flemish style of paintings, where the smooth surface attempts to hide the fact that the painting is man-made.

Bosch never dated his paintings and may have signed only some of them (other signatures are certainly not his). Fewer than 25 paintings remain today that can be attributed to him. Philip II of Spain acquired many of Bosch's paintings after the painter's death; as a result, the Prado Museum in Madrid now owns several of his works, including The Garden of Earthly Delights.

While the art of the older masters was based in the physical world of everyday experience, Bosch confronts his viewer with a world of dreams and nightmares. Some writers see Bosch as a proto-type medieval
surrealist, and parallels are often made with the twentieth century Spanish artist Salvador Dalí. Bosch's works were imitated in a number of paintings and prints throughout the 16th century, especially in the works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder.


"The Earthly Paradise" (Triptych Garden of Eden, c.1504) Oil on panel, 220 x 97 cm - 86.6 x 38.2 in. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.



"Christ Carrying the Cross" (1515-6) Oil on panel, 76.7 x 83.5 cm - 30.2 x 32.9 in. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Ghent, Belgium.



"Death of a Miser" (1490s) Oil on panel, 92.6 x 30.8 cm - 36.5 x 12.1 in. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC., USA.



"The Coronation with the Crown of Thorns" (1508-9) Oil on panel, 73 x 59 cm - 28.7 x 23.2 in. National Gallery, London, UK.



"Tabletop of the Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things: Gluttony" (circa 1480) Oil on panel, 120 x 150 cm - 47.2 x 59.1 in. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.



"Tabletop of the Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things: Pride" (circa 1480) Oil on panel, 120 x 150 cm - 47.2 x 59.1 in. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.



"The Conjuror" (circa 1480) Oil on panel, 53 x 65 cm - 20.9 x 25.6 in. Musée Municipal, Saint-Germain en Laye, France.



"St. Jerome at Prayer" (circa 1505) Oil on panel, 77 x 59 cm - 30.3 x 23.2 in. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Ghent, Belgium.



"St John the Baptist in the Wilderness" (1504-5) Oil on panel, 48.5 x 40 cm - 19,1 x 15.7 in. Museo Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid, Spain.



"Temptation of St. Anthony" (circa 1510) Oil on panel, 131.5 x 53 cm - 51.8 x 20.9 in. Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon, Potugal.



"Temptation of St. Anthony" (detail)



"Christ Crowned with Thorns" (circa 1510) Oil on panel, 165 x 195 cm - 65 x 76.8 in. Monasterio de San Lorenzo, El Escorial, Spain.



"The Extraction of the Stone of Madness, The Cure of Folly " (circa 1480) Oil on panel, 48 x 35 cm - 18.9 x 13.8 in. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.



"The Concert in the Egg" (copy on a lost original) Oil on canvas, 107 x 125 cm - 42.1 x 49.2 in. Musée Vicar, Lille, France.



"Epiphany" Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA.

Text source: 'Wikipedia' (www.wikipedia.org) and others.

Related Artists:


Related Terms: Surrealism, Triptych.


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