Hieronymus Bosch 1450 – 1516

Hieronymus Bosch,  born Jheronimus van Aken. Was a Dutch/Netherlandish draughtsman and painter from Brabant. He is widely considered one of the most notable representatives of the Early Netherlandish painting school. His work is known for its fantastic illustrations of religious concepts and narratives.

Little is known of Bosch’s life, though there are some records. He spent most of it in the town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, where he was born in his grandfather’s house.  Today he is seen as a hugely individualistic painter with deep insight into humanity’s desires and deepest fears. Attribution has been especially difficult; today only about 25 paintings are confidently given to his hand, along with 8 drawings.

Nothing is known of his personality or his thoughts on the meaning of his art. Bosch’s date of birth has not been determined with certainty. His grandfather, Jan van Aken (died 1454), was a painter and is first mentioned in the records in 1430. It is known that Jan had five sons, four of whom were also painters. Bosch’s father, Anthonius van Aken (died c. 1478), acted as artistic adviser to the Illustrious Brotherhood of Our Blessed Lady.

It is generally assumed that either Bosch’s father or one of his uncles taught the artist to paint, but none of their works survive. Bosch first appears in the municipal record on 5 April 1474, when he is named along with two brothers and a sister.

Bosch produced at least sixteen triptychs, of which eight are fully intact, and another five in fragments. Bosch’s works are generally organized into three periods of his life dealing with the early works (c. 1470–1485), the middle period (c.1485–1500), and the late period (c. 1500 until his death).

His most famous triptych is The Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1495–1505) whose outer panels are intended to bracket the main central panel between the Garden of Eden depicted on the left panel and the Last Judgment depicted on the right panel.

Bosch’s paintings with their rough surfaces, so called impasto painting, differed from the tradition of the great Netherlandish painters of the end of the 15th, and beginning of the 16th centuries, who wished to hide the work done and so suggest their paintings as more nearly divine creations.

Hieronymus Bosch painted his works mostly on oak panels using oil as a medium. Bosch’s palette was rather limited and contained the usual pigments of his time. He mostly used azurite for blue skies and distant landscapes, green copper-based glazes and paints consisting of malachite or Verdigris for foliage and foreground landscapes, and lead-tin-yellow, ochres and red lake (carmine or madder lake) for his figures.

An entry in the accounts of the Brotherhood of Our Lady records Bosch’s death in 1516. A funeral mass served in his memory was held in the church of Saint John on 9 August of that year.

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