“Bosch ad libitum? De Dwaaltuin der Lusten” (R.H. Marijnissen) 1991
[in: De Standaard der Letteren, 27th July 1991]
This is a review about Vandenbroeck 1987a, Vandenbroeck 1989a and Vandenbroeck 1990a. Marijnissen agrees with Vandenbroecks intended iconological approach: to explain Bosch with the help of contemporary ideologies and through the sociocultural context. But he strongly disagrees with some aspects of Vandenbroeck’s methodology.
In the first place Vandenbroeck pays a lot of attention to the cultural-historical context, but too little to the issue of authenticity (which works can be attributed to Bosch?). Secondly Marijnissen sticks to his opinion that the Garden of Delights had a religious function: triptychs (and Bosch mainly painted triptychs) were ritual objects. The central panel depicts the sin of luxuria and because of all these erotic scenes we (with our ‘freudian way of looking’) now find it hard to believe that such a painting once adorned an altar, even in a private chapel. According to Vandenbroeck the Garden of Delights had a profane function, more precisely as a ‘matrimonial mirror’ for Henry III of Nassau. Marijnissen objects that Vandenbroeck made up this function himself and that he doesn’t write about some scenes on the central panel nor about the complete right wing, simply ignoring them.
In the third place Vandenbroeck strongly focuses on the (in our modern eyes unjust) negative view on the lower classes that can be derived from Bosch’s paintings. Marijnissen thinks it is unfair to apply modern standards to people from the late Middle Ages and that is exactly what Vandenbroeck is doing with his neo-neo-marxist approach. This can only result in misleading Hineininterpretierung. Around 1500 the dominant ideology was a Christian one.
Marijnissen is right when he rebukes Vandenbroeck for his carelessness when the issue of authenticity is at stake, but in this review his opinion about Vandenbroeck sometimes tends to a mixture of wilfulness and misunderstanding. An example: Vandenbroeck does not ignore the right wing of the triptych at all: he only refers to Bax’s analysis of the right wing and states that nothing has to be added to that (which is definitely something else than ignoring the right wing). Furthermore, to dispense with Vandenbroeck as someone who interprets Bosch as a ‘marxist avant la lettre’ is unfair and incomplete. Most striking of all is that Marijnissen does not mention anything about the numerous valuable and original insights about Bosch and his followers that Vandenbroeck has presented in his dissertation and elsewhere.