Netherlands • 1450−1516
Hieronymus Bosch(nederl. Jheronimus bosch, lat. Hieronymus Bosch; circa 1450-1516, born and died in the city of Hertogenbosch) - the brightest representative of the Northern Renaissance, an artist whose personality never ceases to remain a mystery 500 years after his death, and creativity is a source of inspiration for contemporary artists, designers, filmmakers.

Features of the work of the artist Hieronymus Bosch: densely populated paintings; a bold, unbridled fantasy in the image of monsters and hell is realized in canonical religious subjects; deft combination of a vivid visual range with moralizing content.

Famous paintings and triptychs of Hieronymus Bosch: "Garden of earthly pleasures","The Temptation of St. Anthony". "Carrying the Cross".

Hertogenbosch - the city in honor of which the artist Jerome van Aken took the pseudonym Bosch - has long been famous for the production of bells and organs. In the 15th century, bells and bodies drowned everything here. Every sixth inhabitant of Hertogenbosch was a member of a religious community. If, while greeting a passerby on the street, you smiled, this was considered a grave sin. Death, suffering, the burden of Catholic guilt - these are the "trends" of those years that reigned supremely in the pious minds of Hertogenbosch. And if someone went astray, the fires of the Inquisition lit him in the darkness.

In part, all this explains the appearance of such a peculiar and frightening genius as Bosch. But only in part.

The paintings of the artist Jerome Bosch are the most complex multi-figured puzzles, over the solution of which generations of art critics are struggling. His personality is the same mystery, and an honest biographer has to use the word "probably" much more often than he would like.

Bells and Bodies

The ancestors of Jerome probably had Germanic roots. Judging by the surname, they probably came from the city of Aachen. In the Van Aken family, almost all men were artists. The artists were Jerome’s grandfather - Jan, his father Anthony, his brother Goossen, as well as his three uncles. So Jerome studied craft at a home workshop. Probably.

He was supposedly born in 1453 (most biographers cautiously speak of the 1450s) in Hertogenbosch - one of the centers of Brabant County in the south of Holland. It was a large trading city with a vibrant market square. However, the music - not only the one that was performed on bells and organs - was ordered by the Catholic Church in Hertogenbosch. The local economy revolved around it, anyhow, any manifestations of the local cultural, intellectual or secular life were connected with it. One of the main city-forming elements was the Brotherhood of Our Lady - an influential secular and religious organization founded at the beginning of the XIV century. Van Akena served Bratsvo for two centuries: Ian van Aken is credited with authorship of the frescoes in the Cathedral of St. John, many orders of the Brotherhood fulfilled and Anthony van Aken. The family did not live in poverty: working for the Brotherhood, Anthony managed to build a stone mansion on the main square of the city. As for Jerome, the first mention of him as an artist is found in the archives of the Brotherhood of Our Lady only in 1481. By the standards of those years, 28 - the age for the artist is more than mature. This (in favor of such a theory is also not at all seen by Bosch's superficial acquaintance with theology), which allows some biographers to conclude that painting was not his first choice: initially Jerome was preparing to become a priest.

Be that as it may, the genes took their toll. Jerome inherited the “family business” and worked all his life with the Brotherhood - he painted altars, decorated solemn processions, made sketches of stained-glass windows, pulpits and other chandeliers.

Around the same time, Jerome Bosch married Aleit van den Meerveen, who came from an influential and wealthy family. It was a profitable party - Jerome became a prosperous landowner and even participated in a lawsuit with a brother-in-law, who considered himself deprived. The court ruled in favor of the artist.

Of course, he immediately entered the Brotherhood of Our Lady - already as an honorary member. Documents have been preserved in the archives, indicating that Jerome presided more than once at the meetings of the Brotherhood, which took place in his house. He still wrote a lot - for a nominal fee and not for the sake of earnings . The paintings of the artist Jerome Bosch, meanwhile, less and less corresponded to the image of a respectable burgher. More and more clearly appeared in them, for which later the surrealists would call Bosch "an honorary professor of nightmares."

King of horror

It is hard not to notice that for all its iconography, the style of the paintings of Jerome Bosch goes far beyond any canons. In the modern pop industry, there is such a thing as “Christian rock” - many “charitable” bands sound louder than hell and darker than the apocalypse. In a sense, they can be considered followers of Bosch. Bosch also glorified God, but became famous due to the Devil present on his canvases.

He was definitely a misanthrope. Perhaps the worst of sins Bosch considered frivolity and credulity. His famous works ("Whole hay", "Magician","The ship of fools"), reproductions of which are presented on our portal, are by no means a praise of stupidity. However, Bosch did not give discounts for anyone. A simpleton is no less sinful than a thief who put his hand in his pocket. A priest selling indulgences will burn in hellfire along with the murderer who bought forgiveness. Humanity is doomed and there is no hope.

Needless to say, such a peculiar look at the world order, combined with such a bright talent, could not go unnoticed.

Some researchers believe that around 1500 Jerome Bosch traveled to Italy. This opinion is fueled by the artist’s painting The Crucified Martyr(a reproduction and description of this painting by Jerome Bosch can be found on our website), supposedly dedicated to St. Juliana, whose cult was especially common in northern Italy. In addition, art historians see the influence of Jerome Bosch in the works Giorgioneand even Leonardo da Vinci.

Other biographers are sure that Bosch never left Hertogenbosch, while his paintings, his fame during his lifetime spread not only outside his hometown, but also outside the Netherlands. That is why he began to sign his work "Jheronimus Bosch" *.

Among his customers (in addition to the invariable Brotherhood of Our Lady) there were many noble nobles. The paintings of the artist Jerome Bosch were owned by the Duke of Burgundy, Philip I the Beautiful, the Duke of Nassau-Breda, Henry III, King of Spain Philip II. Hardly contemporaries understood Bosch. At best, instead of edification and satire, they saw theological rebuses. In the worst - “horror stories” that invigorate and tickle nerves. The artist was a horrormaker for them. If such technology were known in the 15th century, showing paintings by Jerome Bosch, the hosts would serve popcorn to the guests.

The devil inside

Since there are few facts about Bosch, one can judge the personality of this amazing artist from his paintings. There are many wonderful, often opposite versions about who Jerome Bosch really was. Zealous Catholic. Secret heretic. The visionary. Practicing alchemist, antichrist, messiah, alien, schizophrenic, seer. In fact, the person in whose head such monstrous images swarmed should have been at least a little crazy. There is no reliable evidence of any of these versions. Quite the contrary - apparently, Jerome Bosch lived a surprisingly calm and normal life. Life that in the days of Clive Barker and Hans Rudi GigerIt seems too measured and even boring. If he was a blasphemer, then extremely lucky - the most zealous inquisitors of those years patronized him. About the "secret heresy" Bosch started talking only in the XVI century. And before the era of the Reformation, Jerome Bosch did not live safely.

He died in 1516 and was solemnly inaugurated as an “outstanding master” in the Cathedral of St. John.

Now in the house where Jerome lived, there is a men's clothing store. On the streets of Hertogenbosch you will not meet any bird-headed monsters, nor giant toads, nor crucified martyrs. Nothing in this quiet “sleeping” province will hint to you where Bosch got his inspiration.

However, the Spanish monk Jose de Siguenza, who wrote: “While other artists portrayed the man as he is outside, only Bosch had the courage to paint him as he was from the inside.”

* Hertogenbosch and 500 years ago and now in colloquial abbreviation to Den Bosch (Den Bosch).

Author: Andrey Zimoglyadov

We have also prepared for you two fascinating tests on the work of Jerome Bosch:

one. "Bosch in detail":guess from what paintings of Bosch fragments with demons and saints are taken.

2. "Bosch or not Bosch?": in each pair of paintings, only one belongs to Bosch - the choice is yours.
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