“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]
Aragonés Estella 2007
“La muerte en el Infierno: a propósito del Hombre-árbol del Jardín de las Delicias del Bosco” (Esperanza Aragonés Estella) 2007
[in: De Arte, 6 (2007), pp. 131-138]
The author argues that the Tree-Man in the right interior panel of Bosch’s Garden of Delights triptych represents Eternal Death or la muerte del alma que trae el pecado (the death of the soul caused by sin). Her arguments are these:
These arguments do not sound very convincing. In my opinion, the ‘body’ of the Tree-Man does not look like a male torso at all. And since 2016, thanks to the archival research done by Lucas van Dijck, we know that the ‘M’ on the knife is the logo of a ’s-Hertogenbosch producer of knives. If you want to reach a correct understanding of the Tree-Man, should you not also explain why there is tavern scene inside the ‘body’, why there is a signboard showing a bagpipe, and why a tabletop is balancing on the Tree-Man’s head, with sinners and devils walking around a giant bagpipe? The author does not even mention these details. Neither is there a reference to the ‘Vision of Tondal’, a text that probably inspired Bosch when he painted his Tree-Man.
[explicit 7th February 2021]
“The Garden of Earthly Delights: A diachronic interpretation of Hieronymus Bosch’s masterpiece” (Matthias Riedl) 2011
[published online in Academia.edu, December 2011, 26 pages. URL: academia.edu/3858747/The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_A_diachronic_interpretation_of_Hieronymus_Bosch’s_masterpiece_video_lecture_manuscript_and_slide_show_Budapest_2011(consulted 22 January 2021)]
This is the manuscript of a lecture delivered by Matthias Riedl at the Central European University, Budapest on 8 December 2011. By ‘diachronic interpretation’ Riedl means that an interpretation of Bosch should not only be based on contemporary sources but also on earlier basic texts of the Christian tradition, in particular on De civitate Dei by St Augustine. In Riedl’s opinion, Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights (Madrid), Haywain (Madrid), and Last Judgement (Vienna) agree with the overall structure of De civitate Dei, each of them dealing with a different stage of human history: beginning, progress, and end.
The centre panel of the Garden triptych shows the prelapsarian Eden, in other words mankind in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. St Augustine speculated about the question of what human existence would have looked like if Adam had not sinned, writing that sexuality would have been controlled by man’s will. In the Garden triptych Bosch made an original theological argument by deviating from St Augustine’s point of view. According to Bosch, man would not have been able to deal with sexuality in a rational way and his fall would have been inevitable. That is why the Eden in the left interior panel is already deeply ambiguous and why the centre panel shows some explicit scenes of sexual lust alongside innocent love scenes. Riedl considers this ‘the tragedy of human existence’: in Bosch’s representation of human sinfulness there is a sense of inevitability. The sexual desires which were necessary to fulfill the divine command of ‘be fruitful and multiply’ could at any time degenerate into lust and unrestrained passion. If Adam had not sinned, someone else would have, sooner or later.
About the presence of black men and women in the centre panel: not a word. About the pivotal scene with two men and one woman in the lower right corner of the centre panel: not a word. A few years ago, I read the complete De civitate Dei, and I can assure the reader there is very little or nothing there that can directly be related to Bosch. The statement that three Bosch triptychs echo the structure of St Augustine’s book is arbitrary. The author does seem to have a point when he notices echoes of Eden in the centre panel, but that Bosch wanted to show prelapsarian man’s inability to avoid sin does not sound very convincing. If the people shown in the centre panel are indeed prelapsarian, where then do the black men and women come from?
[explicit 22nd January 2021]
Aragonés Estella 2019
“Un Judío rojo o porqué no es el Anticristo el personaje de la Epifanía del Bosco” (Esperanza Aragonés Estella) 2019
[published online in Academia.edu, April 2019, 25 pages]
Aragonés Estella does not agree with Brand Philip’s interpretation of the so-called ‘Fourth King’ in Bosch’s Epiphany (Madrid, Prado) as the Antichrist (see Brand Philip 1953). In her opinion, this figure is a Jew representing the Jewish people that do not recognize the divinity of Christ. Before Bosch, such a figure was also painted within a similar Epiphany context by other artists. Aragonés Estella refers to:
In the first and second example we see a man with a long beard and dressed in yellow, who has not removed his headgear (thus showing his lack of respect while watching the Christ Child). In the Memling and Van der Goes paintings we also see a bearded figure who has not removed his headgear, but here the figure is not dressed in yellow. With Memling he is dressed in white and holds a blue cap in his left hand.
Bosch also painted a Jewish figure with a long beard who has not removed his headgear, but his robe, beard, and face are red-coloured. An interesting footnote [p. 9, note 11] points out: Los restauradores de esta tabla del Prado nos informan de que la piel cobriza ocupaba todo el cuerpo del personaje, aunque finalmente el Bosco redujo esta tonalidad al rostro, repintando el resto del cuerpo de tono blanco (the restorers of this Prado painting inform us that the copper-coloured skin covered the complete body of the figure, although Bosch eventually limited this shade to the face, repainting the rest of the body in the colour white). Because of this red colour, Aragonés Estella considers Bosch’s so-called ‘Fourth King’ a Red Jew.
The medieval legend of the Red Jews was quite well-known in the fifteenth century. They were supposed to be the peoples Gog and Magog, which were locked up inside a mountain by Alexander the Great, only to be freed at the End of Times by the Antichrist in order to create chaos in the world.
Apart from the red colour, Aragonés Estella offers no additional arguments to convince the reader of her interpretation of Bosch’s ‘Fourth King’ as a Red Jew. This is particularly true regarding the further details of Bosch’s figure. In fact, the second part of her article, dealing with the figure of the ‘fool’, with Jews (partially) clad in red in other works by Bosch and in paintings by other artists, and with the links between the Low Countries and Spain, makes a rather incoherent impression. On the other hand, by relating Bosch’s ‘Fourth King’ to Jewish figures in Epiphany paintings by earlier artists, the author does seem to have a point. Could it be that Bosch, as he did so often, based his ‘Fourth King’ on a well-known pictorial topos, at the same time adapting it according to his own needs? Furthermore, it is clear that whoever wants to interpret Bosch’s ‘Fourth King’ will have to account for the unusual red (sun-burnt?) colour of his face and neck. (Personally, I do not see the man’s beard as reddish, only his face and neck.)
[explicit 18 January 2021]
“Jerusalem and Other Holy Places As Represented by Jheronimus Bosch” (Jos Koldeweij) 2016
[in: Mariëtte Verhoeven, Lex Bosman, and Hanneke van Asperen (eds.), Monuments & Memory – Christian Cult Buildings and Constructions of the Past – Essays in Honour of Sible de Blaauw. Architectural Crossroads in the History of Architecture – vol. 3, Brepols, Turnhout, 2016, pp. 287-295]
Whereas Bosch drew and painted animals, people, and objects with the utmost precision, and in spite of his assumed acquaintance with exotic buildings in the Near East, he consciously chose not to localize holy places such as Jerusalem, but to depict buildings that were scarcely or completely indefinable and to present unrecognizable views. The events of the New Testament were brought close to the viewer, not only geographically but also chronologically as if the events were taking place in the here and now. The scenes from the lives of saints are a different case, though. In these, the landscape in which the saints are set has the sole purpose of giving greater significance to the chief personage, to illustrate more details of his life, but above all to provide greater depth.
[explicit 15 January 2021]
Van Heesch 2014
“New evidence on Pieter Huys as a draughtsman and designer of prints” (Daan van Heesch) 2014
[in: Delineavit et Sculpsit, vol. 37 (2014), pp. 2-11]
Pieter Huys was not only a producer of Bosch imitations. He also engraved and designed woodcuts for various Antwerp print publishers that in style and content were far removed from the imagery of Bosch. Huys was part of a wide commercial and artistic network in which production was tailored to market demand. This created the necessity to assimilate multiple styles and employ a variety of artistic concepts.
Van Heesch draws attention to a St Christopher panel by Huys (circa 1580, Winterthur, Oskar Reinhart Collection) and a Last Judgement engraving published by Hieronymus Cock, probably representing a lost triptych by Bosch. Several of the demonic creatures in the centre ‘panel’ and one in the right-hand ‘panel’ are virtually identical to monsters in the Winterthur painting. The current literature attributes only one drawing to Huys with certainty. But Van Heesch draws attention to a signed drawing by Huys representing a Temptation of St Anthony (see the illustration). It was auctioned in 1968 and 1971 but its present whereabouts are unknown. This signed drawing is closely related to an (anonymous) engraving of which only two copies survive (Wolfenbüttel / Amsterdam). The drawing was probably the model for (part of) the engraving.
[explicit 22 November 2020]
Krischel et al. 2014
“A Stone Never Cut for: A New Interpretation of The Cure of Folly by Jheronimus Bosch” (Matthis Krischel, Friedrich Moll, and Philip Van Kerrebroeck) 2014
[in: Urologia Internationalis, vol. 93, no. 4 (December 2014), pp. 389-393, URL: https://doi.org/10.1159/000362741]
The three authors are urologists. They offer a new interpretation of The Cure of Folly (Madrid, Prado), a painting usually attributed to Jheronimus Bosch. Medical and art historians agree that it is unlikely that the picture illustrates an actual operation, as it has been demonstrated that there are no historical sources mentioning fraudulent – or genuine – operations on the head during the 15th and 16th centuries. In the existing accounts of quackery in the Netherlands during this period, cranial lithotomy is not mentioned, but there are accounts of it being presented in theatrical performances meant for entertainment and moral instruction.
The three figures surrounding the patient can be seen as allegories of medicine, religion and philosophy. All three of them carry attributes that signify the limits of their knowledge and power. The painting can be interpreted to point out the inability of medicine, philosophy and even religion to do much good for some patients, including those suffering from severe neurological or psychiatric conditions. The poor reputation of vesical lithotomy at the time of Bosch makes it plausible that he used the concept of ‘cutting for bladder stones’ as a symbol of the limits of medicine, but also of an abstract hope for successful psychosurgery to cure ‘madness’ in the future.
[explicit 18 November 2020]