“Hieronymus Bosch and Italy” (Leonard J. Slatkes) 1975
[in: Art Bulletin, vol. LVII, nr. 3 (September 1975), pp. 335-345]
[Also mentioned in Gibson 1983: 113 (E231)]
In 1898 Dollmayr was the first to identify the female saint on Bosch’s Triptych with a Crucified Female Martyr (Venice) as St. Julia. When the triptych was cleaned and restored in 1950-51 two overpainted donors were discovered by means of X-rays, one on each wing. The donor on the right inner wing appeared to be wearing an Italian style hat. In 1961 Bax identified the saint as St. Wilgefortis (also known as St. Ontcommer or St. Liberata). Because St. Julia was virtually unknown in Northern Europe Bax reasoned away the italianizing aspects of the triptych. It seems very likely, though, we are dealing here with St. Julia, but indeed this saint has few or no links with the Netherlands. In the sixteenth century the center of her devotion was Brescia, which makes it probable that Bosch painted the triptych for a church in or near Brescia.
We also know that in 1521 several Bosch paintings were located in Venice. In the beginning of the sixteenth century some Boschian influences can be pointed out in Northern Italy. Slatkes refers to Raphael’s Saint Michael (Louvre) and Dürer’s Christ among the Scribes. Bosch’s Ghent Carrying of the Cross and the Princeton Christ before Pilate (attributed to Bosch) can probably be traced back to Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing with Grotesque Heads. Bosch’s influence can also be discovered in another drawing by Leonardo, in an engraving by Giulio Campagnola and in works by Giorgione.
Although Slatkes’ arguments regarding all these influences and affinities remain rather vague and this vagueness is being camouflaged by a confusing jumble of long footnotes, he reaches the conclusion that shortly after 1500 Boschian influences can be discerned in Northern Italy, more precisely in Venice. If Bosch made a trip to Italy this would not only explain the early presence of some Bosch paintings in Italy, but also a number of Boschian influences on Northern Italian works of art. Moreover: in the archives of ’s-Hertogenbosch there is a gap bewteen the years 1498/99 and 1503/04 regarding the recordings of Bosch’s name and only from 1504 on the painter began to call himself ‘Bosch’, probably as a result of his international fame. Slatkes’ last sentence is: ‘Although there is no direct documentary evidence that places Hieronymus van Aeken, called Bosch, in Italy, all the circumstantial evidence indicates that he traveled to Italy sometime between 1499 and 1503, had a period of activity in Venice, and possibly visited other parts of north Italy’.
About Slatkes’ hypothesis of Bosch’s supposed trip to Italy Paul Vandenbroeck [Vandenbroeck 1981a: 175 (note 118)] wrote: ‘For a confirmation of this hypothesis, in favour of which – but on other grounds – a lot can be said, no really valid arguments are produced’. We agree with Vandenbroeck.