Bosch's pictures have always fascinated viewers, but in earlier centuries it was widely assumed that his diabolic scenes were intended merely to amuse or titillate, most people regarded him as "the inventor of monsters and chimeras." Philip II, though, collected his works more for education than for entertainment. A Dutch art historian in the early 17th century described Bosch's paintings chiefly as "wondrous and strange fantasies" often less pleasant than gruesome to look at'. In the 20th century, however, scholars decided that Bosch's art has a more profound significance, and there have been many attempts to explain its origins and meaning. Some writers saw him as a sort of 15th century surrealist and linked his name with that of Salvator Dali. For others, Bosch's art reflects mysterious practices of the Middle Ages. No matter what explanation and comprehension of his art might be, Bosch remains the most extravagant painter of his time.
Bosch lived and worked in "s-Hertogenbosch, the place from which he takes his name, a fairly quiet Dutch city. Bosch's ancestors settled in "s-Hertogenbosch in the late 14th or early 15th century. Their family name, Van Aken, suggests that they originally came from the German town of Aachen. In 1430-31 appears the first reference to Bosch's grandfather, Jan van Aken, who died in 1454. Jan had 5 sons, at least four of them were painters; one of these, Anthonius van Aken (died c.1478), was the father of Hieronymus Bosch. He had 2 brothers and a sister; brother Goossen was also a painter. His training as a painter Bosch, most probably, received in the family. Some time between 1479 and 1481 Bosch married Aleyt Goyaerts van den Meervenne, evidently some years his senior. She came from a good family and had considerable wealth of her own.
In 1486-87, Bosch's name appears for the first time in the membership lists of the Brotherhood of Our Lady, with which he was closely associated for the rest of his life. This brotherhood was one of the many groups devoted to the worship of the Virgin, which flourished in the late Middle Ages. The Brotherhood of Our Lady of 's-Hertogenbosch was a large and wealthy organization, it must have contributed significantly to the religious and cultural life of the city. They also commissioned works of art to embellish the chapel of Our Lady. Most of Bosch's family belonged to the Brotherhood, and were employed by them in various tasks. There is no documentary evidence that Bosch ever left his home town. One final entry in the accounts of the Brotherhood of Our Lady records Bosch's death in 1516.
Numerous paintings bearing Bosch's name can be found in museums and private collections in Europe and the United States. Many of these are only copies or imitations of his original compositions, but over thirty pictures and a small group of drawings can be attributed to him with reasonable certainty. Except for his early works, however, the chronology of these paintings is difficult to determine with any precision.
The Haywain Triptych exists in two versions, one in the Escorial, the other in the Prado, Madrid. Both are in poor condition and were heavily restored, it is uncertain which one is the original. The Haywain shows mankind given to sin, completely neglectful of God's law and unaware of the fate, which is awaiting them.
See: Hieronymus Bosch. Haywain.
Hieronymus Bosch, (Latinised Jheronimus Bosch; real name Jeroen van Aken) (c. 1450 – August 9, 1516) was an Early Netherlandish painter of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Many of his works depict sin and human moral failings. Bosch used images of demons, half-human animals and machines to evoke fear and confusion to portray the evil of man. The works contain complex, highly original, imaginative, and dense use of symbolic figures and iconography, some of which was obscure even in his own time. Hieronymus Bosch was born Jheronimus (or Jeroen) van Aken (meaning from Aachen). He signed a number of his paintings as Bosch (pronounced Boss in Dutch), a name derived from his birthplace, 's-Hertogenbosch. Little is known of Bosch’s life or training. He left behind no letters or diaries, and what has been identified has been taken from brief references to him in the municipal records of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and in the account books of the local order of the Brotherhood of Our Lady. 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. It is estimated at c. 1450 on the basis of a hand drawn portrait (which may be a self-portrait) made shortly before his death in 1516. The drawing shows the artist at an advanced age, probably in his late sixties. Bosch was born and lived all his life in and near ‘s-Hertogenbosch, a small Dutch city close to the present-day Belgian border. 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 Brotherhood of Our Lady. It is generally assumed that either Bosch’s father or one of his uncles taught the artist to paint, however none of their works survive. Bosch first appears in the municipal record in 1474, when he is named along with two brothers and a sister. 's-Hertogenbosch was a flourishing city in fifteenth century Brabant, in the south of the present-day Netherlands. In 1463, some 4,000 houses in the town were destroyed by a catastrophic fire, which the then (approximately) 13-year-old Bosch may have witnessed. He became a popular painter in his lifetime and often received commissions from abroad. In 1488 he joined the highly respected Brotherhood of Our Lady, an arch-conservative religious group of some 40 influential citizens of 's-Hertogenbosch, and some 7,000 'outer-members' from around Europe. Some time between 1479 and 1481, Bosh married Aleyt Goyaerts van den Meerveen, who was a few years older than the artist. The couple moved to the nearby town of Oirschot, where his wife he had inherited a house and land, from her wealthy family. 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 9th August of that year. Bosch produced several triptychs, works of three paintings on wooden panels that are attached to each other. Among his most famous is The Garden of Earthly Delights. This triptych depicts paradise with Adam and Eve and many wondrous animals on the left panel, the earthly delights with numerous nude figures and tremendous fruit and birds on the middle panel, and hell with depictions of fantastic punishments of the various types of sinners on the right panel. When the exterior panels are closed the viewer can see, painted in grisaille, God creating the Earth. These paintings have a rough surface from the application of paint; this contrasts with the traditional Flemish style of paintings, where the smooth surface attempts to hide the fact that the painting is man-made. Bosch never dated his paintings and may have signed only some of them (other signatures are certainly not his). Fewer than 25 paintings remain today that can be attributed to him. Philip II of Spain acquired many of Bosch's paintings after the painter's death; as a result, the Prado Museum in Madrid now owns several of his works, including The Garden of Earthly Delights. Extracted from Wikipedia
Hieronymus Bosch. by G. Fomin. Moscow. 1974.
Hieronymus Bosch. by J. Fränger. Dresden. 1975.
Hieronymus Bosch. Moscow. 1991.
Painting of Europe. XIII-XX centuries. Encyclopedic Dictionary. Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1999.
Hieronymus Bosch by Walter S. Gibson. Thames & Hudson, 1985.
Bosch: C. 1450 1516 Between Heaven and Hell (Basic Series : Art) by Walter Bosing. TASCHEN America Llc, 2000.
Bosch: Master of the Grotesque--His Life in Paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, Alessia Devitini Dufour. DK Publishing, 1999.
Bosch by Federico Zeri. NDE Publishing,, 2001.
Masters of Art: Bosch by Carl Linfert. Harry N. Abrams, 1989.
The Secret Heresy of Hieronymus Bosch by Lynda Harris. Floris Books, 2002.
Hieronymus Bosch : The Complete Paintings and Drawings by Jos Koldeweij, Paul Vandenbroeck. Harry N. Abrams, 2001.
Hieronymus Bosch: Garden of Earthly Delights by Hans Belting. Prestel USA, 2002.