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Bosch, Hieronymus 1450–1516 Dutch Painter

Bosch, Hieronymus
Dutch painter

In his paintings Hieronymus Bosch, of Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, created a highly original world with a moral message. Bosch used his works, often based on Christian writings, to present his views on human sin and its consequences. He also produced some very fine landscapes.

A member of a family of painters called the van Akens, Bosch spent most of his life in Hertogenbosch. Sometime before 1481 he married Aleyt Goyaerts van den Meervenne. Over the years Bosch gained many influential patrons*, including leading members of the church and aristocracy*. Despite his success, his works were not well documented and are difficult to identify. Scholars using scientific methods of examination have estimated that Bosch produced 25 paintings and 14 drawings.

Bosch had a rather dark view of humanity—though his works were not without humor. Many of his paintings were allegorical* with images of Christ and saints, and they often told stories of the folly of humans. He painted a number of triptychs (three connected panels), which allowed him to tell a part of a story in each panel. His triptych the Haywain, for example, traces the development of sin. The left-hand panel shows the origin of sin (Adam and Eve), the large center panel illustrates sin's progress in the world, and the final panel shows the punishment of sinners in hell.

Scholars divide Bosch's works into three main periods. In the early years, from about 1470 to 1490, he began to focus on humanity's weakness toward sin. In his middle period, from 1490 through 1500, Bosch expanded on this topic and began to paint triptychs. Many of his works from this time are on a large scale and include numerous small people and creatures. This changed, however, during the final period of his career, from 1500 to his death in 1516. In these last years, Bosch painted on a smaller scale with close-up views of larger figures.

After Bosch's death, followers produced copies of his paintings. This made it more difficult for scholars to identify his original works. The influence of Bosch can also be seen in the paintings of artists such as Pieter Brueghel the Elder.

(See alsoArt in the Netherlands; Brueghel Family. )

* patron

supporter or financial sponsor of an artist or writer

* aristocracy

privileged upper classes of society; nobles or the nobility

* allegorical

referring to a literary or artistic device in which characters, events, and settings represent abstract qualities and in which the author intends a different meaning to be read beneath the surface

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