Jheronimus Bosch Art Center

Hieronymus Bosch's Lisbon "Temptations of Saint Anthony" Triptych and Its Written Sources

De Bruyn 2022c
De Bruyn, Eric
Genre: Nonfiction, art history
Uitgave datum: 2022
Bron: Bernadett Tóth and Ágota Varga, "Between Hell and Paradise", exhibition catalogue, Budapest, 2022, pp. 22-43.

De Bruyn 2022c



“Hieronymus Bosch’s Lisbon Temptations of Saint Anthony Triptych and Its Written Sources” (Eric De Bruyn) 2022


[in: Bernadett Tóth and Ágota Varga (eds.), Between Hell and Paradise – The Enigmatic World of Hieronymus Bosch. Exhibition Catalogue (Budapest, Museum of Fine Arts, 8 April – 17 July 2022), Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, 2022, pp. 58-75]



A great deal of the iconography of Bosch’s Lisbon St Anthony triptych can be clarified with the help of a number of written sources describing the life of the saint and containing additional legendary episodes. After having offered a brief survey of these texts, which were all available to Bosch and his contemporaries, this essay discusses the four scenes in the interior panels showing Anthony, which were clearly inspired by contemporary texts on Anthony, in particular by the Middle Dutch Gulden legende or Passionael (printed for the first time in 1478) and Dat vader boeck (printed for the first time in 1490). The interior panels also have some 21 ‘secondary scenes’. To a large extent, these can also be related to particular passages in the written texts. It seems that these secondary scenes should be understood as illusions created by the devils, not to tempt Anthony in a physical way (as is the case in the four primary scenes showing Anthony) but in a mental way, by enacting blaspheming and disparaging parodies of things, persons, and ideas that were precious to the saint. The present essay gives five examples of this.


It is further argued that Bosch was also inspired by the Malleus Maleficarum (1487) when he painted the Lisbon triptych. Two examples of this influence are presented here: the scene with a witch and devil riding an airborne fish (right interior panel), and the scene with a midwife-witch on a giant rat parodying Mary sitting on a donkey during the Flight into Egypt (centre panel). Finally, some paragraphs are spent on the good copy of the Lisbon centre panel owned by the Antwerp Royal Museum of Fine Arts, which was restored in Budapest in 2021.


[explicit 19th August 2022 – Eric De Bruyn]

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