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Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450-1516) was a painter Flemish primitive with a singular genius, famous for its fantastic iconography in an inexhaustible narrative sense, sometimes attributed to a popular tradition, sometimes to alchemy, but never far removed from the moral and religious concerns of his time. His art, at the crossroads of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, describes a world that is both terrifying and enchanting, between heaven and hell. This genius with a tortured universe was one of the inspirers of the surrealist painters of the twentieth century.
Origins and reputation of Hieronymus Bosch
Our knowledge on the biography of Hieronymus Bosch, his real nameHieronymus Van Aaken, are to this day extremely thin. This one comes from a large family originating in Nijmegen and settled for three generations in Hertogenbosch (in Dutch, 's-Hertogenbosch): his father, Anthonius van Aken, was a painter, as well as his grandfather , Jan van Aken.
Hieronymus Bosch, who therefore chose the name of his birthplace as his surname, married around 1478 Aleit Vanden Mervenne, a woman from the region. In 1486-1487, he became a member of the lay brotherhood of Notre-Dame, a religious and charitable association dedicated to the veneration of the Virgin, thanks to which he acquired his entries among the notables of Bois-le-Duc and saw artistic commissions. flow. He quickly became responsible for the design of the stained glass windows for the town's church. His fame in Europe was immediate. His fame among the intellectual elite and the courts of Europe was immediate, both with Emperor Maximilian I, his children Philippe le Beau and Marguerite d'Autriche, or even Henri de Nassau, who are in many of its most illustrious sponsors.
A hallucinatory painting and a critique of human passions
Bosch's paintings are strongly distinguished by references to astrology, folklore, witchcraft, alchemy, the theme of the Antichrist and episodes from the lives of exemplary saints. They bear witness to a constant concern for the damnation of souls condemned to eternal hell, a fatal consequence of human madness refusing the virtue dictated by God. But we can also read, through the elaborate compositions of hybrid characters in extravagant positions (the Garden of Earthly Delights, Prado Museum, Madrid) as in the group scenes that give rise to incisive caricatures (the Escamoteur, museum de Saint-Germain-en-Laye), a spirit as satirical as it is moralistic.
His very personal technique, called alla prima, consists in freely applying his patterns on a background prepared in dark tones (black, brown), and presupposes knowledge of the great German masters of engraving, illumination and miniature .
The main works of Hieronymus Bosch
Among the works of Bosch that we know, none is dated and many of the panels bearing his signature may well be the work of his successors. His paintings were, in fact, greatly appreciated and very imitated from the end of the 16th century, due to a real Boschian revival, which occurred in Antwerp during the 1550s and in which artists such as Pieter Huys and Bruegel l 'participated. Old, in endless variations of his compositions. One of the main sources of identification of his paintings, however, could be established thanks to the descriptions meticulously established in the 16th century by Don Felipe Guevara, a Spanish aristocrat.
Thanks to the dendrochronological surveys recently carried out on painted panels - determining the age of a panel by counting the growth rings in the wood - the Jardin des Délices (Prado Museum), long considered a mature work (after 1500), is today considered to be an early work (1480-1490). Likewise, it could in the same way be established that the Colporteur de Madrid was in fact only the reverse of a triptych comprising on its interior face, the Nave of the fools (Paris), the Allegory of gluttony ( New Haven) and Death of a Miser (National Gallery of Art, Washington). Similarly, if the works dealing with the life and Passion of Christ - Christ Carrying the Cross (musée voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent), Crucifixion (Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels) - are considered to be even later, the table of the Wedding at Cana (Boijmans Van Beuningen museum, Rotterdam) is no longer considered to be by Bosch. It would be some fifty years after the death of the Master.
In this regard, the exhibition held in 2001 at the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum - and comprising 18 of the 25 certified wood panels of Hieronymus Bosch and 7 of his 8 drawings - made it possible to bring these to the general public. all recent expertises. She thus helped shed new light on Bosch’s personality and work.
- Hieronymus Bosch by Roger Van Schoute. 2007.
- L'ABCdaire by Jérôme Bosch, by Roger-Henri Marijnissen. Flammarion, 2001.
- Hieronymus Bosch: The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hans Belting. Gallimard, 2005.