Hellish pain and heavenly joy: ‘Jheronimus Bosch – Visions of Genius’

Ulrike Grafberger, Friday, March 11, 2016 , 220 Views

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Human legs wriggle from the mouth of a grotesque face, naked bodies are pierced by swords and arrows or slide wide-legged along the razor edge of a knife. A devilish creature sits astride a kneeling woman, its hand brandishing a dagger in the air. The body of a slimy salamander sports a woman’s head, a four-legged head stumbles around, and Death, a pale skinny creature wound in strips of cloth, appears in the door.

The hellish suffering is followed by a moment of heavenly joy: Delicate angels with long filigree wings carry the dead peacefully into heaven through a tunnel filled with expectant light. Here, in paradise, fruit matures in one’s mouth and shells make soft, safe beds.

I am in ’s-Hertogenbosch (colloquially called ‘Den Bosch’) visiting the Jheronimus Bosch – Visions of Genius exhibition, exploring the complex imagery inhabited by fantasy figures that seem to show us what will happen if we are as libidinous and greedy as they!

I would prefer to stand there, my nose pressed up against the safety glass, to search for more wondrous details. The tiny, evil devils and half human, half animal creatures are the most fascinating to me. They were birthed by the fantasy of a genius.

Jheronimus Bosch died 500 years ago in Den Bosch and inspired not just art lovers but other artists as well. His ideas and imagery reappear in the paintings of Flemish painters like Pieter Huys and the surrealist works of Salvador Dalí. Bosch’s paintings appeared on album covers for bands like Deep Purple and Toten Hosen and were a source of creative inspiration for countless musical compositions, dance choreographies, books, and movies.

He did not paint many works but they can be found in museums around the world: Vienna, Frankfurt, Washington, and Venice. Madrid’s Prado museum boasts the greatest collection, including the famous works Garden of Earthly Delights and the Haywain Triptych. Jheronimus Bosch is so popular in Spain that they call him El Bosco and even started to believe that he was a Spanish painter.

And Den Bosch, the city in which he lived and worked? It had none of his works. Until now. Because from 13 February until 8 May 2016, the Noordbrabants Museum exhibits 20 paintings and 19 drawings by their famous inhabitant combined with some 70 other works of art from the 15th and 16th centuries. How they managed to convince the Prado’s curators to let go of El Bosco’s incredibly touching works for the exhibition? They made an irresistible offer: in exchange for the three-month reunion in Den Bosch, all these works by Jheronimus Bosch were examined, documented and restored, if necessary, as part of a ‘Research and Conservation Project’ in Den Bosch (BRCP). Don’t miss out on this fantastic exhibition.

Tip: You must order tickets and book the audio tour in advance.

Address: Noordbrabants Museum, Verwersstraat 41, Den Bosch

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Hellish pain and heavenly joy:  ‘Jheronimus Bosch – Visions of Genius’
Verwersstraat 41
5211HT Den Bosch
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