Jheronimus Bosch Art Center

Raadsels rond werk Jheronimus Bosch - Het altaar van de Lieve Vrouwebroederschap

Hoffman 2008
Hoffman, Ed
Genre: Nonfiction, art history
Uitgave datum: 2008
Bron: Bossche Bladen, vol. 10 (2008), nr. 1, pp. 26-31

Hoffman 2008


“Raadsels rond werk Jheronimus Bosch – Het altaar van de Lieve Vrouwebroederschap” (Ed Hoffman) 2008

[in: Bossche Bladen, vol. 10 (2008), nr. 1, pp. 26-31]


Hoffman focuses on the hypothesis, presented by Jos Koldeweij in 2001, suggesting that the Berlin St John on Patmos and the Madrid St John the Baptist were painted by Bosch around 1490 as the upper wings of the altarpiece for the chapel of the ’s-Hertogenbosch Confraternity of Our Lady. He explains in which way Koldeweij arrived at his hypothesis and then adds nine short comments.

  • There is a gap of 15 years between the datings of the wood of both panels.
  • The altarpiece also had another representation of the St John on Patmos theme, carved in wood. In that case the same theme was represented twice, which is unusual.
  • If the St John on Patmos were the right upper wing, the painted St John was looking at the Virgin and Child (once within the painting itself, once on top of the altarpiece) twice. This is unusual as well.
  • The St John on Patmos has a signature. It does not seem logical that Bosch used his signature on a panel intended for his home town. Moreover, the signature is too small to be properly seen from the chapel.
  • The scenes on the backside of the St John on Patmos are so small, that they can hardly be seen from the chapel.
  • The dimensions of both Bosch panels don’t fit the dimensions of the altarpiece doors for which they were supposedly meant.
  • The St John the Baptist has an overpainted donor who is larger the saint himself.
  • It seems too much of a coincidence that two panels, who were preserved in such different places, once belonged together.
  • A local chronicle dating from before 1610 reports that the altarpiece of the Confraternity had two Bosch panels: Abigail in front of David and Salomon and Batsheba. The two St John panels are not mentioned, though.


These short comments don’t prove Koldeweij’s hypothesis wrong, but they do make it less probable.


Koldeweij’s 2001 hypothesis still remains a hypothesis.


[explicit 24th April 2016]

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