Jheronimus Bosch Art Center

Het (denk)kader van de middeleeuwen was religieus, maar het schilderij erin? Bij een nieuw werk over Jheronimus Bosch

Vandenbroeck 1988a
Vandenbroeck, Paul
Genre: Nonfiction, art history
Uitgave datum: 1988
Bron: Bijdragen tot de Geschiedenis, vol. 71 (1988), nr. 1-2, pp. 77-81

Vandenbroeck 1988a


“Het (denk)kader van de middeleeuwen was religieus, maar het schilderij erin? Bij een nieuw werk over Jheronimus Bosch” (Paul Vandenbroeck) 1988

[in: Bijdragen tot de Geschiedenis, vol. 71 (1988), nr. 1-2, pp. 77-81]


This is Paul Vandenbroeck’s review on Roger Marijnissen’s Hieronymus Bosch. The complete works [Marijnissen 1987]. Elsewhere the good qualities of this book have already been highlighted, so now a number of more critical observations can be made. Marijnissen’s basic view is that the oeuvre of Bosch has a fundamentally religious character because it mainly consists of triptychs and triptychs functioned as altarpieces. For the religious iconography of Bosch’s paintings and drawings this book is very useful, but it neglects the profane aspects of the painter’s work. What is valid for a part of Bosch’s oeuvre is generalized by Marijnissen for the work as a whole.


According to Vandenbroeck Marijnissen does not analyse the ‘complete’ works of Bosch because he dispenses with a great number of lost paintings which are known to us i.a. through inventories of the possessions of the Spanish Crown, with prints after lost Bosch compositions and with copies (including tapestries). This is important because the lost Bosch works were mainly profane compositions. The Spanish inventories are not unreliable when they attribute profane works to Bosch: the Bosch paintings that are still in Madrid and in the Escorial today are rightly attributed to Bosch in those inventories, so why would their information be wrong in the case of profane works?


Regarding the supposedly religious function of Bosch’s triptychs Vandenbroeck asks if we have enough knowledge about Bosch’s triptychs and about his commissioners. Marijnissen doesn’t tell that Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding was a triptych once and that in contemporary inventories other examples of profane, also larger, triptychs can be found. This leads to a basic contradiction in his book: on the one hand Marijnissen constantly warns of our lack of knowledge concerning the culture in Bosch’s time, on the other hand he clings to extreme opinions which bear witness to an insufficient factual knowledge and superficial cultural-historical research. Vandenbroeck gives a few examples.


Vandenbroeck also criticizes Marijnissen’s bibliography in which two fundamental Bosch volumes (Bax 1983 and Gibson 1983) and some articles are lacking and points out that Marijnissen spends too little attention on the writings of Bax. Marijnissen writes: if it comes to a straightforward choice between a list of unanswered questions on the one hand, and confident declarations which have no serious basis on the other, then the questions are always to be preferred [p. 423], but according to Vandenbroeck this is a false dilemma. There is also a third option: meticulous and laborious historical research.



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