Hieronymus Bosch – Die Zeichnungen in Brüssel und Wien / The Drawings in Brussels and Vienna (Fritz Koreny and Ernst Pokorny) 2001
[Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2001, 42 blz.]
In this bilingual (German-English) little book, which was published on the occasion of the Rotterdam 2001 Bosch Exhibition, the Viennese professor Fritz Koreny and his assistant Ernst Pokorny focus on five drawings attributed to Bosch, three of which are preserved in the Vienna Albertina, one in the Vienna Akademie der bildenden Künste and one in the Brussels Royal Library. Although in the past more than fourty drawings have been linked with Bosch’s name, less than twenty are considered authentic today. All drawings connected with Bosch were on display during the Rotterdam exhibition and this was a unique occasion for a renewed research of Bosch’s drawn oeuvre. This publication should be considered the first step of this research.
It is not certain yet whether the Tree Man drawing (Vienna, Albertina) was intended as a preparatory study for, or as later variant of the so-called Tree Man figure in the right interior panel of Bosch’s Garden of Delights triptych. The drawing, considered an authentic Bosch by the authors, is stylistically closely related to two other Bosch drawings: The wood has ears, the field has eyes (Berlin) and The Owl’s Nest (Rotterdam). The close relationship between the three drawings and the Garden of Earthly Delights confirms that all these works may be dated in the first decade of the sixteenth century.
The Drollery with Beehive drawing (Vienna, Albertina) is situated in the ‘circle of Bosch’ and attributed to the painter of the Prado Haywain triptych. Both the triptych and the drawing are characterized by a lively gestural idiom and the exaggeratedly caricatural expression. Stylistically the Prado Haywain does not fit in with the Bosch oeuvre, but the ‘painter of the Haywain’ issue has not been solved yet.
The Beggars and Cripples drawing (Vienna, Albertina) is attributed here to a Bosch imitator from the period 1530-40. The style does not remind of Bosch, nor of Bruegel. Because a sixteenth-century tapestry (now in the Spanish Royal Collections) also has a beggar playing the hurdy-gurdy and accompanying a blind beggar, just like the drawing, and because in the drawing thinly pencilled circular marks can be seen around the heads of some figures, Koreny and Pokorny think that this drawing has served as the model for a cartoon in order to produce a tapestry. And because these marks can only be seen around some of the figures, they suggest that tapestries after Bosch were not always reproductions of entire drafts, but that the designers of tapestries combined and even adapted Bosch motifs at random.
The technique of the Brussels Beggars and Cripples drawing (Royal Libray) also excludes an attribution to Bosch or Bruegel. Koreny and Pokorny suggest an artist from the master’s close circle or a direct imitator. This drawing also shows circular marks around some of the figures.
The Hell-Ship drawing (Vienna, Akademie) is dated circa 1500 and attributed to Bosch’s workshop. Not to Bosch himself, because of the uncertain lines, the clumsy feet, shoes and sword, the monotonous hatchings and the smeary shadows. There are however close parallels with the Bruges Last Judgment triptych (Groeningemuseum). For the first time the authors publish an interesting Hell-Ship drawing (St Petersburg, Hermitage) that is closely related to the Vienna drawing and has an extra (hell)scene in the foreground. Is this St Petersburg drawing a free copy or was it made after the same model as the Vienna drawing?
Although Koreny and Pokorny analyze five drawings, they only consider the Vienna Tree Man an authentic Bosch. However, their opinion is only based on stylistic-comparative impressions and in the past Bosch scholarship has taught us that this method may lead to divergent conclusions. What the authors write about the St Petersburg drawing (‘the clues are not concrete enough’), may be true for all the stylistically based attributions and rejections in this book. When iconographic interpretations are at stake, the authors seem rather insecure and they limit themselves to references summoned up from other Bosch authors.