Page 1

a rt i st m o n o g r a p h s

(continued from front flap)

HIERON √MUS

book’s final chapter, describes how Bosch’s pictures inspired the landscapes and genre scenes of later Netherlandish painters, from Joachim Patinir to Pieter Bruegel. Augmented by 310 illustrations, most in color, including many stunning close-up details of Bosch’s intricately imagined nightmare scenes, Larry Silver’s Hieronymus Bosch is the definitive book on a perennially fascinating artist.

larry silve\

L ARR√ S I LVE R

HIE|oN√MUS BOSCH

A B O U T T H E AU T H O R Larry Silver, a historian of Northern Renaissance art, received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and is currently Farquhar Professor of Art History at the University of Pennsylvania. His other books include the general survey Art in History and the recent Peasant Scenes and Landscapes: The Rise of Pictorial Genres in the Antwerp Art Market.

A L S O AVA I LA B LE F RO M A B B EV I LLE P R ES S

Caravaggio By John T. Spike ISBN 13: 978-0-7892-0639-8 ISBN 10: 0-7892-0639-0 $95.00

Goya By Fred Licht ISBN 13: 978-0-7892-0727-2 ISBN 10: 0-7892-0727-3 $95.00

Landscape Painting: A History By Nils Büttner ISBN 13: 978-0-7892-0902-3 ISBN 10: 0-7892-0902-0 $135.00

A B B EV I LLE P R ESS 137 Varick Street New York, NY 10013 1-800-A rt b o o k (in U.S. only) Available wherever fine books are sold Visit us at www.abbeville.com Printed in France

BOSCH

ISBN-13: 978-0-7892-0901-6 U.S. $135.00 ISBN-10: 0-7892-0901-2

HIE|oN√MUS

BOSCH larry silve\

Four hundred little people frolic au naturel with overgrown songbirds and berries; a pudgy blue demon accompanies a trio of courtly music-makers on his own trumpet-nose; a knife-wielding set of disembodied ears stalks the damned through Hell. The phantasmagoric imagery of Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450–1516) has been the source of widespread interest ever since the painter’s lifetime and has remained so enigmatic that scholars have theorized that it contains hidden astrological, alchemical, or even heretical meanings. Yet none of these theories has ever seemed to provide an adequate understanding of Bosch’s work. Moreover, the considerable professional success that the artist enjoyed in his native ’s-Hertogenbosch in Brabant, not to mention his membership in a traditional religious confraternity, suggests that he pursued not a sinister secret agenda but simply a personal artistic vision. This intriguing new monograph by noted art historian Larry Silver interprets that artistic vision with admirable lucidity. The introduction, a penetrating analysis of Bosch’s masterpiece, the Garden of Earthly Delights triptych, reveals that the artist’s dramatic visualizations of the supernatural were shaped above all by his preoccupation with human sin and its punishment, conceived in an era of powerful apocalyptic expectation. Later chapters explore Bosch’s endlessly inventive treatments of these deeply felt spiritual themes in paintings of his most characteristic subjects: the Infancy and Passion of Christ; the temptations resisted and torments endured by hermit saints; perverse spectacles of lust, gluttony, and avarice; and the dreadful punishment of those vices in the Last Judgment. Additional chapters tracing Bosch’s artistic development are among the first such accounts to benefit from the dendrochronological (tree-ring) dating of his paintings’ wood supports, as well as from the reexamination of his drawings in relation to his paintings. Hieronymus Bosch is also unique in how securely it places its subject’s work in the broader history of painting in the Low Countries: Silver identifies sources of Bosch’s imagery in a wide range of fifteenth-century panel paintings, manuscript illuminations, and prints, and, in the

13500

(continued on back flap) 9 780789 209016


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HIE|oN√MUS

BOSCH L A R R Y S I LV E R

ABBEVILLE PRESS PUBLISHERS new york

london


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For Herbert L. Kessler, magister primus et optimus for the original edition Editor: Agnès de Gorter Designer: Richard Medioni for the english-language edition Editor: David Fabricant Copy editor: Meredith Schizer Proofreaders: Ashley Benning, Mary Christian Caption and index translator: Marie Dessaix Production manager: Louise Kurtz Typographic design: Angela Taormina Jacket design: Misha Beletsky First published in the United States of America in 2006 by Abbeville Press, 137 Varick Street, New York, NY 10013 First published in France in 2006 by Éditions Citadelles & Mazenod, 8, rue Gaston de Saint-Paul, 75116 Paris Copyright © Editio-Éditions Citadelles & Mazenod, 2006. All rights reserved under international copyright conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Inquiries should be addressed to Abbeville Press, 137 Varick Street, New York, NY 10013. The text of this book was set in Galliard. Printed in France.

front cover Hieronymus Bosch Detail of plate 12 Garden of Earthly Delights Right wing

back cover Hieronymus Bosch Detail of plate 12 Garden of Earthly Delights Left wing f1

First edition 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Hieronymus Bosch Detail of plate 129

ISBN 13: 978-0-7892-0901-6 ISBN 10: 0-7892-0901-2

Adoration of the Magi Central panel

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Silver, Larry, 1947– Hieronymus Bosch / by Larry Silver. -- 1st ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-13: 978-0-7892-0901-6 (alk. paper) 1. Bosch, Hieronymus, d. 1516– Criticism and interpretation. I. Bosch, Hieronymus, d. 1516. II. Title. ND653.B65S55 2006 759.9492--dc22

2e Hieronymus Bosch Detail of plate 12 Garden of Earthly Delights Central panel

3 ee 2006013931

For bulk and premium sales and for text adoption procedures, write to Customer Service Manager, Abbeville Press, Inc., 137 Varick Street, New York, NY 10013 or call 1-800-Artbook.

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contents

Preface

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

17

THE GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS— AND MORTAL SINS 21 ARTISTIC FOUNDATIONS: THE SPIRITUAL WORLD OF FIFTEENTH-CENTURY NETHERLANDISH ART 81 DOCUMENTS AND EARLY WORKS

127

THE INFANCY AND PASSION OF CHRIST: GOSPEL TRIPTYCHS 161 VOICES IN THE WILDERNESS: BOSCH’S SAINTS

195

ALLEGORIES OF AVARICE AND LUST: MORALITY TRIPTYCHS 239 DRAWINGS AND DEVELOPMENT

275

CONCLUSION: LATE-MEDIEVAL END-TIME

305

BOSCH’S AFTERLIFE IN SIXTEENTH-CENTURY ART Notes

399

Bibliography

415

Index of Names

417

Index of Works

419

361


PREFACE

!9

Hieronymus Bosch Detail of plate 263 Christ Carrying the Cross

Why write a new book on Bosch? For one thing, interest in this unique painter remains perennial. Moreover, to have one’s thoughts be addressed by such beautiful and clear reproductions makes for an irresistible opportunity. But there has been considerable fresh material on Bosch generated in this new century. In 2001 a major exhibition in Rotterdam, one of the great Bosch repositories, prompted a new synthetic volume—which will be cited often below—about the “complete paintings and drawings,” jointly authored by Jos Koldeweij, Bernard Vermet, and Paul Vandenbroeck. The exhibition also occasioned a scholarly symposium with detailed research into a number of topics. At the same time, new monographs have provided considerable reevaluations of major concerns, including the documented life of the artist (G. C. M. van Dijck), his chronology (Roger Elsig), and his major works in the Prado (Carmen Garrido and Roger van Schoute). These will be gratefully cited and acknowledged in the notes and bibliography that follow.

To synthesize and assess these Wndings within an overall understanding of Bosch thus seems particularly timely and valuable. Bosch still occasions fairly wild theories or monolithic interpretations, ranging from the most extreme contention, for his heresy (Wilhelm Fraenger, more than half a century ago), to specialized angles of analysis through the lens of some particular form of knowledge, such as astrology, alchemy, or Dutch visual puns. Quite a few of these approaches had already been proposed when Walter Gibson’s comprehensive bibliography on the artist appeared over twenty years ago (1983), but they persist today. What is needed is a combination of historical sense and some inclusive common sense. Most of the analyses to follow derive from the content of the pictures, that distinctive combination of form with subject that enables Bosch to show his inventiveness even when he still works with conventional subjects. To establish his particular contribution, one chapter (2) will

17


consider the traditions of altarpieces and individual devotional imagery, whether paintings or illuminated manuscripts, that prevailed during the period when Bosch was learning his craft. Another chapter (9) will show how his achievement founded a heritage of both forms and novel subjects, particularly everyday subjects, for paintings and prints that lasted the entire sixteenth century. Bosch was not a lonely genius but a grandson and son of an artist family, who participated, as a serious member, in a religious confraternity devoted to the Virgin Mary. But the play’s the thing, and Bosch’s own play with Netherlandish visual culture made him the unique, lastingly fascinating creator who merits yet another book. His prominent signatures and aristocratic patrons and collectors helped to establish the very concept of an individual artist, whose work merits attention for its own distinctiveness. In the process, Bosch also helped to establish a new attention to how something was fashioned rather than its subject alone, conditioning what later would become known as the “aesthetic” or “art” rather than a guild craft. One cannot account for the engaging images that follow simply by acknowledging Bosch’s commonalities with pictorial tradition or conventional subject matter. It is hoped that some of their imaginative invention emerges as well, from the discus-

sions as well as the imagery itself. But the artist also wanted his viewers to respond to his presentations, and the discussions should elucidate those for the curious reader of this book. No discussion of Hieronymus Bosch would be possible without the achievements of the great scholars of the twentieth century, from Ludwig Baldass to Charles De Tolnay, but especially Walter Gibson, esteemed senior colleague and friend. Already the young twenty-Wrst century has proved so fruitful for the research and understanding of Bosch’s art, especially in the work of younger Dutch scholars. In addition, the author would especially like to single out two individuals, less visibly published about this artist but nonetheless thoughtful analysts of his oeuvre and generous interlocutors with their own originality, Herbert Kessler and Reindert Falkenburg. To Agnès de Gorter, who fostered this project, and to Elizabeth Silver-Schack, who sustained its production, the deepest thanks are due. This book has a dual dedication: Wrst, to my daughter, Laura, with joy in her willingness to explore new places and ideas and with happy memories of encountering Madrid and Bosch together; second, to my once and future mentor, Professor Herbert Kessler, who taught me how to combine deep commitment with rigorous scholarship.

10 " Hieronymus Bosch Detail of plate 12 Garden of Earthly Delights Central panel

18

hieronymus bosch


well as laity, consecrated to the devotion of the Virgin, for which he executed several artistic commissions (see chapter 3).14 Nor can licentiousness, especially sexual lust, so easily be equated with innocence, even to a modern eye. However attractive and lively their behavior, these naked Wgures in the Garden of Earthly Delights are just as obviously indulging in luxuria as are those courtly characters in the verdant landscape of Bosch’s tabletop of the Deadly Sins. F RO M T H E GA R D E N O F E D E N TO T H E GA R D E N O F EA RT H LY D E LI G H TS The compositional structure of the Garden triptych suggests a purposeful continuity between the Paradise wing at left and the center panel. Their shared, continuous, high horizon links the two spaces, and even in the center of the image an orchard of apple trees extends from Eden into the central panel’s setting. Indeed, the central panel is divided horizontally by this green belt, with Wgures at the far right plucking fruit from these trees (plate 22). Both the left panel and the center area present similar blue bodies of water; the middle background also features a large pool, which divides into four rivers. This structure echoes the description of Genesis 2:10–15, which describes a river that runs out of Eden “to water the garden” and then splits into four streams: Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates. According to the Bible text, the Wrst of these streams winds through Havilah, a land of gold, bdellium, and lapis lazuli—exotic and precious stones. Such stones can be found strewn around the base of the Fountain of Life (plate 24) in the Paradise wing of the Garden of Earthly Delights triptych. Of course, Adam and Eve have been supplanted in the center space by a host of naked Wgures, so an undeWned amount of time has elapsed since the First Parents. During this period, the “lineage of Adam” as well as the living creatures and Xying fowl have followed God’s directive to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:20–23), and they now Wll both the seas and the earth. The original humans, too, are Wrst blessed by God and then commanded to “Wll the earth and conquer it, and hold sway over the Wsh of the sea and the fowl of the heavens and every beast that crawls upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Clearly the common nudity of Wgures in both Eden and the central panel implies that a span of time connects the left panel of Paradise to the subsequent (especially in a sequence of reading from left to right) center, which depicts the postlapsarian earth in an unspeciWed but still Eden-like setting.

32

hieronymus bosch

22  Hieronymus Bosch Detail of plate 12 Garden of Earthly Delights Central panel

23  Hieronymus Bosch Detail of plate 12 Garden of Earthly Delights Central panel

24 Hieronymus Bosch Detail of plate 12 Garden of Earthly Delights Left wing


 25

Jan Sadeler (1550–1600), after Dirk Barendsz. (1534–1592) Humankind Surprised in Sin by the Flood, 1581 Engraving Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich

Using this logic, Ernst Gombrich argued that the center panel depicts the “days before Noah,” the period described later in Genesis (6:1–5): “And it happened as humankind began to multiply over the earth and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were comely, and they took themselves wives howsoever they chose. And the Lord said, ‘My breath shall not abide in the human forever, for he is but Xesh’. . . And the Lord saw that the evil of the human creature was great on the earth and that every scheme of his heart’s devising was only perpetually evil.” The presence of giant Xora and fauna on the earth does suggest a diVerent era, including such mysterious but related passages as Genesis 6:4, “The Nephilim were then on the earth, and afterwards as well, the sons of God having come to bed with the daughters of man who bore them children.” Gombrich supports his argument by adducing a later sixteenth-century Dutch engraving (plate 25) that depicts humankind on the eve of the Flood.15 It shows a cluster of nude Wgures of both sexes indulging their appetites around a bountiful table, in front of distant storm clouds and the waiting structure of the ark. De-

36

hieronymus bosch

signed by Dirk Barendsz. of Amsterdam and engraved by Jan Sadeler, the print is captioned with the verses from the Gospel of Matthew (24:37–39) that prophesy the connection between the Flood and the coming Last Judgment. Judgment itself is also represented in a pendant print by Barendsz., showing dressed Wgures who banquet at table indoors as both wars and the Second Coming unfold in the distance. Hence the sinfulness of humankind in the wake of the Fall will be punished directly by the inexorable condemnation of Judgment at the second coming of the “Son of Man,” just as in the Seven Deadly Sins tabletop. In this gospel passage, Christ’s words use the particular historical moment as both a metaphor and a parallel for the day of reckoning to come: “As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the Xood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the Xood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man.” The echoes of this passage with the original Genesis text are explicit and intentional.

26  Hieronymus Bosch Detail of plate 12 Garden of Earthly Delights Left wing


also eucharistic grapes) by the Christ Child—often forms the foundation for images of the holy Wgures within the enclosed garden (hortus conclusus) in both devotional literature and late medieval visual culture (e.g., the Frankfurt Paradise Garden, c. 1410/20; plate 36).25 In particular, the strawberry appears alongside the bench on which the Virgin sits in many of the images of an earthly garden paradise, such as the early Wfteenth-century German Virgin with the Strawberries (Kunstmuseum, Solothurn, Switzerland). Indeed, the core text of the garden, the Song of Songs, whose erotic content was allegorized by medieval commentators into the bond between Christ and the Virgin or the personiWed Church, also featured imagery of fruit, Xowers, and spices. Individual motifs of garden imagery freely transferred from courtly, secular imagery into these religious contexts. Yet as Bosch’s images of hermit saints reveal, garden and vegetal imagery could also be perverted, to be understood as the site of indulgent human folly, even sinfulness.26 The foulest of all bodies of water in the left panel stands prominently in the lowermost front of the setting (plate 31), spilling over the right edge of the image and suggesting again that this cesspool could easily spread its corruption into the central panel. Here gambol even more explicit monsters and hybrids, all dark in color. A duck-billed, hooded, monklike Wsh Xoats at the top of the water, reading a small book above the surface, while a Xying Wsh (anticipating the strange creatures defying natural laws in the skies above the central panel) breathes and extends its wing-Wns into the air. There are also more multiheaded beasts. A unicorn-Wsh and a spoonbill-Wsh swim alongside each other. Foul toads abound. In addition, death already exists in Eden. One of the monstrous, dark birds above the monklike Wsh is swallowing a toad, while a cat below the dragon tree strides oV with another amphibian in its mouth. In the right distance, a lion has slain a deer. At the very center of the image, within a dark hollow at the base of the fantastic, pink, organic fountain within the central pool, perches another black creature: an owl (plate 37).27 In Dutch and German art a traditional symbol of evil or folly, which shuns the light, the owl also draws the hostile attention of day birds (e.g., the Dürer woodcut, c. 1515/16, captioned “all birds are envious and hostile to owls”).28 Indeed, as Paul Vandenbroeck notes, Bosch situates a variety of other birds around the edges of the Paradise fountain.29 But he further claims that this behavior is a lure or enticement, to be read as analogous to temptation and seduction in Eden, which he then

37 Hieronymus Bosch Detail of plate 12 Garden of Earthly Delights Left wing

the garden of earthly delights—and mortal sins

49


a rt i st m o n o g r a p h s

(continued from front flap)

HIERON √MUS

book’s final chapter, describes how Bosch’s pictures inspired the landscapes and genre scenes of later Netherlandish painters, from Joachim Patinir to Pieter Bruegel. Augmented by 310 illustrations, most in color, including many stunning close-up details of Bosch’s intricately imagined nightmare scenes, Larry Silver’s Hieronymus Bosch is the definitive book on a perennially fascinating artist.

larry silve\

L ARR√ S I LVE R

HIE|oN√MUS BOSCH

A B O U T T H E AU T H O R Larry Silver, a historian of Northern Renaissance art, received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and is currently Farquhar Professor of Art History at the University of Pennsylvania. His other books include the general survey Art in History and the recent Peasant Scenes and Landscapes: The Rise of Pictorial Genres in the Antwerp Art Market.

A L S O AVA I LA B LE F RO M A B B EV I LLE P R ES S

Caravaggio By John T. Spike ISBN 13: 978-0-7892-0639-8 ISBN 10: 0-7892-0639-0 $95.00

Goya By Fred Licht ISBN 13: 978-0-7892-0727-2 ISBN 10: 0-7892-0727-3 $95.00

Landscape Painting: A History By Nils Büttner ISBN 13: 978-0-7892-0902-3 ISBN 10: 0-7892-0902-0 $135.00

A B B EV I LLE P R ESS 137 Varick Street New York, NY 10013 1-800-A rt b o o k (in U.S. only) Available wherever fine books are sold Visit us at www.abbeville.com Printed in France

BOSCH

ISBN-13: 978-0-7892-0901-6 U.S. $135.00 ISBN-10: 0-7892-0901-2

HIE|oN√MUS

BOSCH larry silve\

Four hundred little people frolic au naturel with overgrown songbirds and berries; a pudgy blue demon accompanies a trio of courtly music-makers on his own trumpet-nose; a knife-wielding set of disembodied ears stalks the damned through Hell. The phantasmagoric imagery of Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450–1516) has been the source of widespread interest ever since the painter’s lifetime and has remained so enigmatic that scholars have theorized that it contains hidden astrological, alchemical, or even heretical meanings. Yet none of these theories has ever seemed to provide an adequate understanding of Bosch’s work. Moreover, the considerable professional success that the artist enjoyed in his native ’s-Hertogenbosch in Brabant, not to mention his membership in a traditional religious confraternity, suggests that he pursued not a sinister secret agenda but simply a personal artistic vision. This intriguing new monograph by noted art historian Larry Silver interprets that artistic vision with admirable lucidity. The introduction, a penetrating analysis of Bosch’s masterpiece, the Garden of Earthly Delights triptych, reveals that the artist’s dramatic visualizations of the supernatural were shaped above all by his preoccupation with human sin and its punishment, conceived in an era of powerful apocalyptic expectation. Later chapters explore Bosch’s endlessly inventive treatments of these deeply felt spiritual themes in paintings of his most characteristic subjects: the Infancy and Passion of Christ; the temptations resisted and torments endured by hermit saints; perverse spectacles of lust, gluttony, and avarice; and the dreadful punishment of those vices in the Last Judgment. Additional chapters tracing Bosch’s artistic development are among the first such accounts to benefit from the dendrochronological (tree-ring) dating of his paintings’ wood supports, as well as from the reexamination of his drawings in relation to his paintings. Hieronymus Bosch is also unique in how securely it places its subject’s work in the broader history of painting in the Low Countries: Silver identifies sources of Bosch’s imagery in a wide range of fifteenth-century panel paintings, manuscript illuminations, and prints, and, in the

13500

(continued on back flap) 9 780789 209016

Hieronymus Bosch  

A stunningly illustrated, groundbreaking exploration of the work of the Low Countries great visionary painter.

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