“Kommen die Adepten wieder? Ueber Bosch, Alchemie und esoterische Kunstwissenschaft” (Paul Vandenbroeck) 1986
[in: Kunstchronik, vol. 39, nr. 11 (November 1986), pp. 477-481]
A new generation of, mainly American, art historians has recently linked Bosch once more with esoteric sciences. After having signalled the failure of Wilhelm Fränger in the past, Vandenbroeck briefly discusses and rejects the recent works of Dorothy M. Joiner, who uses the Kabbalah, Gnosis, alchemy and archetypes as keys to Bosch’s symbolism, and of Laurinda Dixon, who sees Bosch as an alchemist.
Vandenbroeck thinks it is useless to look for alchemical symbols in Bosch’s paintings, but he does see two similarities between Bosch’s views and alchemy: the fusing of the organic and the anorganic, and the sexualizing of the anorganic and vegetative world. The author wonders to which degree some people in Bosch’s entourage realized the unecclesiastical character of many of their views. This aspect of the late Middle Ages is still largely unknown territory. The issue of the spreading of non-official ideas outside organized movements is even more problematic.