De Bruyn 2022b
“Op verkenning in de Tuin der Lusten 4 – De ‘onbespreekbare zonde’ toch besproken” (Eric De Bruyn) 2022
[in: Bossche Kringen, vol. 9, nr. 2 (May 2022), pp. 38-41]
The fourth part of a series on the Garden of Delights. Several scenes of the central panel refer to homosexuality. Three of these scenes are discussed: the figures in the opening of the blue ball floating on the water (upper register), the man picking flowers from the anus of another man, and the three men around a fruit with bolls and a strawberry. Because of these scenes it is impossible to interpret the central panel in a positive way. In the Middle Ages homosexuality was one of the manifestations of the ‘sin against nature’, the ‘mute sin’ (which should not be talked about). Homosexuality was considered extremely reprehensible and even heretical.
[explicit 8th July 2022 – Eric De Bruyn]
[Review of Büttner 2012] (Erwin Pokorny) 2013
[in: Journal für Kunstgeschichte, 17 (2013), Heft 4, pp. 268-275]
This is a review of Nils Büttner, Hieronymus Bosch, Munich, 2012. Pokorny notes: ‘Für Fussnoten oder das Abwägen widersprüchlicher Interpretationen ist in einem Taschenbuch freilich ebenso wenig Platz wie für grosse Abbildungen, in denen sich Detailbeschreibungen verfolgen liessen. Büttner hat jedoch den zur Verfügung stehenden Raum souverän genützt’ (evidently, for footnotes or the assessment of contradictory interpretations a pocketbook offers as little room as for large illustrations which could accompany detailed descriptions. However, Büttner has used the available space in a superior way).
An interesting aspect of this review is that Pokorny offers his own views on Boschian issues every now and then.
[explicit 5 July 2022 – Eric De Bruyn]
“Op zoek naar een identiteit? Bosch en Bruegel bieden soelaas” (Manfred Sellink) 2021
[in: de lage landen – context bij cultuur in vlaanderen en nederland, vol. 64, nr. 4 (November 2021), pp. 98-107]
The shortened version of a lecture delivered by Manfred Sellink, the (Dutch) head of the Ghent Museum voor Schone Kunsten, in the Ghent town hall on 6th November 2021. Nations and cities often fall back on famous artists from the past to create an identity for themselves and to propagate their ambitions. Since 1900, this has also been the case with Bosch and Bruegel, in the wake of the growing appreciation of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century artists during the second half of the nineteenth century.
Initially, Bosch – living and working in the Duchy of Brabant, just like Bruegel – was considered a late representative of the Flemish Primitives. However, since the Jeroen Bosch: Noord-Nederlandsche Primitieven (Hieronymus Bosch: Northern Netherlandish Primitives) exhibition in 1936, Bosch has been included more and more among the legators of the northern Low Countries, i.e. of the present-day Netherlands. Recently, Bosch has been accepted in the revised version of the Canon of The Netherlands, next to Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Sellink supposes that Bosch will not enter the similar Flemish canon, which is currently being prepared. However, in 2016 the urban pride of Ghent was hurt…
'During a debate in the Ghent Museum voor Schone Kunsten there was some resentment and irritation among the Flemish (in particular Ghent) colleagues because the – Dutch! – Bosch Research and Conservation Project dared to deny the traditional attribution of the Carrying of the Cross to the master' [my translation].
[explicit 9th June 2022 – Eric De Bruyn]
Filedt Kok 2017
“Hieronymus Bosch after 500 years: exhibitions and publications in 2016” (Jan Piet Filedt Kok) 2017
[in: Simiolus – Netherlands quarterly for the history of art, vol. 39 (2017), nr. 1/2, pp. 111-124]
In a properly balanced and well-informed way, this article offers an overview of the major exhibitions and books which were organised and published in 2016, on the occasion of the memorial of Bosch’s death 500 years ago (in 1516). First the author compares the exhibitions in the Noordbrabants Museum (’s-Hertogenbosch) and in the Prado (Madrid) and their respective catalogues to each other. Just like the previous two Bosch exhibitions (’s-Hertogenbosch 1967 and Rotterdam 2001), the exhibitions in ’s-Hertogenbosch and Madrid were structured thematically, but they focused less on the Bosch followers and all the more on the autograph works. Filedt Kok writes the following about the two catalogues:
The exhibition catalogues are very dissimilar. The one for ’s-Hertogenbosch is a well-written summation of the views of the compilers, which are spelled out in greater detail and more closely argued in the BRCP’s Catalogue raisonné. The Madrid catalogue is a more attractive and lavish affair and contains several fascinating essays, but because most of the entries are written by the curators of the lending museums, their quality and scope is uneven, and the same is true of the information they contain. Some of the authors appear to know little about the findings of the BRCP’s research, while others take the opportunity to contest them, sometime vehemently. [p. 114]
Next, the two volumes published by the BRCP in 2016 (the Catalogue raisonné and the Technical studies) are discussed, with special mention of the accompanying website boschproject.org. Filedt Kok’s opinion on the two BRCP volumes:
The catalogue entries are lengthy, in contrast to the short essays, and they too are mostly a pleasure to read, with superb illustrations of many details. Despite the clear layout and generally very readable text, the attention paid to the different aspects of each painting is rather uneven and was clearly guided by the interest of the various authors. Skillful editing, for which there was evidently no time, could certainly have resulted in greater concision and a more balanced approach, and might also have helped to temper the polemical tone, particularly in the opposition to the views of Fritz Koreny. The Technical studies are a useful supplement to the Catalogue raisonné, mainly because of their abundant illustrations, but one wonders whether the systematic incorporation of all the technical details would not have been better off on a website, particularly the descriptions of condition, most of which have been made redundant by the recent restorations. [p. 114]
Filedt Kok also mentions a number of Bosch books which were published in or shortly before 2016: Koreny (2012), Büttner (2012), Schwartz (2016), Fischer (2013), and Holger-Borchert (2016a en 2016b).
The rest of this article offers a concise overview of the current state of Bosch research. First, the author focuses on the archival documents and the patrons. Filedt Kok does not seem to have a high opinion of Koldeweij’s theory that the St John on Patmos and St John the Baptist panels (Berlin and Madrid) were meant for the altarpiece of the Brotherhood of Our Lady, and Koldeweij’s suggestion that Hippolyte de Berthoz was the commissioner of the Vienna Last Judgement and the Lisbon St Anthony is called ‘hypothetical’. He also points out that Silva Maroto (curator of the Prado exhibition) seems to consider the paintings in Madrid autograph, because they are mentioned among the works acquired by Philip II, adding that few experts agree with her.
The section ‘Attributions on the basis of technical examination’ praises the work of the BRCP team and the facilities offered by the website boschproject.org. Peter Klein’s dendrochronological research has yielded interesting information, but its results should be handled with caution. More words are spent on the problems linked to the examination of underdrawings and style in the works attributed to Bosch, on the role of Bosch’s workshop, and on the followers of Bosch. Filedt Kok shares his opinions on the major part of the works discussed here, suggesting a lot but arguing rather off-handedly. The same is true for the sections on the autograph Bosch oeuvre and the drawings. Filedt Kok feels that Koreny’s insights concerning the drawings are sharper than those of the BRCP team, and yet he does not wholly agree with the Viennese Bosch author. The last section on Bosch’s iconography is more concise, with short references to the monographs by Falkenburg (2011) and Higgs Strickland (2016) and to the catalogues of exhibitions in Rotterdam (2015), St Louis (2015), and Hamburg (2016).
Filedt Kok concludes:
The scientific research carried out by the BRCP and others, the conservation of a number of core paintings, and the scholarly preparations for both exhibitions have added vastly to our knowledge of Bosch’s work, and his oeuvre is now far better defined. The interpretation of all this new material will take time, and there will continue to be differences of opinion and interpretation, so it is an illusion to think that there will ever be full agreement. [pp. 123-124]
Desiderata for future Bosch research are the publication of the research results by the Prado, the Vienna Akademie, and the Ghent museum and a continued study of the works by Bosch followers.
Filedt Kok’s interesting overview is very welcome and attests to the author’s familiarity with the world of Bosch exegesis but is not complete. For example, the Bosch congress in the JBAC in April 2016 and De Vrij 2012 are not mentioned. Other publications, such as the collected lectures of the JBAC congress, Koerner 2016, and Vandenbroeck 2017 were probably not available yet when this contribution was written.
[explicit 18 May 2022]
“Haunted landscape – the play with the viewer in Bosch’s backgrounds” (Agata Morka) 2008
[Paper, University of Washington, Art History Department, Bosch class (Dr Christine Goettler), Spring quarter 2008, 18 pages. Published online in http://www.academia.edu]
Apparently, this is a paper written by the Polish art historian Agata Morka when she was studying art history at the University of Washington (where she became a Ph.D. in 2011). Morka argues that the structure of Bosch’ s landscapes is a deliberate strategy of the painter intended to activate the viewer and to interact with him. Bosch wants to show that what one sees at first glance is deceptive and that the truth can only be seen when one wishes to meditate and to use the eye’s mind. The author illustrates this by discussing the Rotterdam St Christopher, the Vienna St James the Great (left exterior wing of the Vienna Last Judgement triptych), the exterior wings of the Haywain triptych (showing a peddler in a landscape), the central panel of the Lisbon St Anthony triptych and the Ghent St Jerome. In each of these paintings the landscape hides threatening details, creating a sense of hostility and fear and suggesting that the landscape is haunted by evil, demons, and sin, whereas the protagonist figure turns away from the landscape and thus sets a positive example to follow. However, the peddler in the Haywain exterior is an ambiguous figure, and it is not clear whether he should be interpreted in a positive or a negative way.
To agree with Morka’s main argument is easy enough, and a lot of her remarks on the paintings are to the point (most of them are based on earlier literature), but occasionally her text suffers from a superficial approach, wrong observations, and even a lack of cultural-historical insight. The tree with the giant jug in the Rotterdam St Christopher is called ‘peculiar’, and that is it. In spite of what the author suggests, there is no jug on the tree-man’s ‘hat’ in the Hell panel of the Garden of Delights, but a bagpipe. And when she interprets the dancing couple in the Haywain’s exterior as a representation of the idea of carefree joy which has no fear of robbers, it is clear that she is not aware of contemporary (late medieval) devotional and moralizing literature, which condemns dancing as evil and sinful.
[explicit 17th March 2022]
De Bruyn 2022a
“Op verkenning in de Tuin der Lusten 3 – De zondige ruiterkring van Jheronimus Bosch” (Eric De Bruyn) 2022
[in: Bossche Kringen, vol. 9, nr. 1 (March 2022), pp. 27-29]
With the cavalcade of male riders turning around a pond with naked bathing females, Bosch combined three traditional iconographic and literary motifs: the idea that sin reduces man to the level of a beast, riding animals in the nude and without spurs, saddle, or bridle as an image of unbridled sexual desire, and turning or dancing to the left (anti-clockwise) as a metaphor for passion which is inspired by the devil and leads to Unchastity. The complete scene can be linked to the sinful souls turning anti-clockwise around a giant bagpipes in the right interior panel (i.e. in Hell). Both details point out that indulging in sexual desires is a never-ending story and leads to eternal punishment in Hell.
[explicit 16th March 2022]
“Erotische utopie: de ‘Tuin der Lusten’ in context” (Paul Vandenbroeck) 2016
[in: Jan Van der Stock (ed.), Op zoek naar Utopia. Exhibition catalogue (Louvain, Museum M, 20 October 2016 – 17 January 2017), Davidsfonds Uitgeverij-Amsterdam University Press, Louvain, 2016, pp. 41-47]
In this contribution to the the catalogue of the Louvain exhibition Op zoek naar Utopia (In search of Utopia), Vandenbroeck offers a very concise summary of his extensive 1989 and 1990 articles on Bosch’s Garden of Delights (see Vandenbroeck 1989 and Vandenbroeck 1990a). This triptych represents an ‘erotic utopia’. The painting is a marriage mirror (see the Marriage of Adam and Eve in the left interior panel), warns of the perversion of marriage (central panel) and shows the punishment of this perversion (right interior panel). The religious subject (from Creation to Hell) is based on a popular myth (the Grail) and ‘perhaps’ also on a historical fact (the earliest history of mankind from Adam to the Flood). This encourages the spectator to meditate on sexual lust and control, on wildness and primitivism, and on the link between nature, ethics, and behaviour.
In medieval folklore the ‘Grail’ was the name of a partially earthly, partially supernatural pseudo-paradise, in which people could indulge in sexual pleasures without limits. In Bosch’s anti-popular, bourgeois view, this Grail was a false, misleading, and diabolical utopia that could only end up in Hell.
[explicit 25th July 2021]
Van Dijck 2016b
“Het mes van de Tuin der Lusten” (Lucas G.C.M. van Dijck) 2016
[in: Bossche Kringen, vol. 3, nr. 5 (September 2016), pp. 46-49]
Translation of the title: The knife of the Garden of Delights. A number of Bosch’s paintings (the Garden of Delights triptych, the Vienna Last Judgement triptych, the Bruges Last Judgement triptych) show knives with a logo on them. An act in the Bosch’ Protocol (the archives of the ’s-Hertogenbosch bench of aldermen) informs us that this logo can be attributed to the ’s-Hertogenbosch producer of knives Anthonius Jonckers, also known as Van den Grave (who died shortly before 1529). In 1538, Anthonius’s children sell the logo to another producer of knives, Anthonius van Tuyl. The act (R. 1330, fol. 22v, 8 November 1538) describes the logo as ‘a round M’. Until 1541, the ’s-Hertogenbosch producers of knives were allowed to use their own logo, after 1541 this was obligatory. The Groot Tuighuis (a museum in ’s-Hertogenbosch) owns a (small) knife with a big M logo, which was found during archaeological excavations.
Anthonius Jonckers was the son of the producer of knives Marcelius van de Grave aka Jonckers, who died circa 1497. Anthonius inherited the workshop from his father. It is not certain that the Bosch paintings showing a knife with an M date from after 1497, because we do not know whether the father already used the logo or not. The M could refer to the father’s first name (Marcelius), and the first name of his wife (Anthonius’s mother) was Maria (Mary).
[explicit 26th January 2018]
De Bruyn 2021a
“Jheronimus Bosch en Filips van Bourgondië” (Eric De Bruyn) 2021
[in: Bossche Kringen, vol. 8, nr. 3 (June 2021), pp. 70-73]
Philip of Burgundy was the youngest bastard son of the Burgundian duke Philip the Good. From 1516 until his death in 1524, he was Bishop of Utrecht. According to an inventory of his possessions dating from 1529, Philip owned a comical representation on canvas attributed to Jheronimus Bosch and a painting which is described as ‘a scene of Lubbertas who is being cut from the stone’. This latter work is more than likely Bosch’s Cutting of the Stone panel (today in the Prado), and probably Philip was its commissioner. Philip of Burgundy belonged to the higher circles centering around duke Philip the Fair, and he was befriended with Henry III of Nassau, once the owner and perhaps also the commissioner of Bosch’s Garden of Delights triptych. With Henry III Philip shared an interest in paintings with enigmatic subjects and with nude figures.
[explicit 13th July 2021]
“Hieronymus Bosch’s Worlds that Could Have Been” (Julia Ramirez) 2016
[Published online. URL: http://hyperallergic.com/321247/hieronymus-boschs-worlds-that-could-have-been/, 8 pages]
A short and rather superficial review of the Prado 2016 Bosch exhibition. ‘Delight is a notion that could well summarize this small and fascinating exhibition’. The central panel of the Garden of Delights triptych may ‘represent the world we could have lived in, God’s truncated plan for humanity’. ‘If the Flemish painter’s canvases seem surprisingly modern, at the same time they evoke a long-gone universe of medieval fantasy’. But Bosch is not ‘Flemish’, and his works are not painted on canvas, but on panel.
[explicit 15 April 2021]