Jheronimus Bosch Art Center

Illuminated Manuscripts as a Main Source of Hieronymus Bosch

Pokorny 2022
Pokorny, Erwin
Genre: Nonfiction, art history
Uitgave datum: 2022
Bron: Bernadett Tóth en Ágota Varga, "Between Hell and Paradise", exhibition catalogue, Budapest, 2022, pp. 22-43.

Pokorny 2022



“Illuminated Manuscripts as a Main Source of Hieronymus Bosch” (Erwin Pokorny) 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. 44-57]



This essay offers a number of examples which show that many aspects of the art of Bosch (ideas, motifs, compositions, even painting technique) were inspired by (in most cases Franco-Flemish) illuminated manuscripts, particularly by their drolleries. By transferring these marginal absurdities into large panel paintings, Bosch created something very new. In addition, Bosch was also inspired by the illustrations in early printed books (travel reports, encyclopaedias, books of nature, hunting books).


Throughout the essay, Pokorny pleads in favour of an early dating of the Garden of Delights triptych, one of his arguments being that the illuminated manuscripts by which the painting was influenced mainly date from about 1460 to 1480. According to the author, the central panel of this triptych may represent the earthly paradise as the final destination for those ressurected who have lived without sin but not piously enough to ascend into heavenly paradise. This theme can also be found in illuminated manuscripts. Furthermore, Pokorny points out a stylistic relationship between Simon Marmion and Bosch, and he even suggests that Bosch may have been an apprentice in the workshop of this Valenciennes master, who was both a painter and an illuminator.


The examples adduced by Pokorny clearly show that the art of Bosch and the art of illumination are related, but none of these examples go beyond parallellisms, except perhaps for the wild man riding a flying griffin in The Book of Hours of Engelbert II of Nassau (compare the naked man on a flying griffin the Garden’s central panel). It should not go unnoticed, though, that the website of the Bodleian Library dated this book of hours ‘circa 1470-1490’, whereas Pokorny dates ‘circa 1475-1482’, thus endorsing his early dating of the Garden triptych.


[explicit 18th August 2022 – Eric De Bruyn]


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