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Bosch, Hieronymus

Bosch, Hieronymus, or Jerom Bos hērôn´ĭməs, yā´rôm bôs [key], c.1450–1516, Flemish painter. His surname was originally van Aeken; Bosch refers to 's-Hertogenbosch (popularly called Den Bosch), where he was born and worked. Little is known of his life and training, although it is clear that he belonged to a family of painters. His paintings are executed in brilliant colors and with an uncanny mastery of detail, filled with strangely animated objects, bizarre plants and animals, and monstrous, amusing, or diabolical figures believed to have been suggested by folk legends, allegorical poems, moralizing religious literature, and aspects of late Gothic art. Such works as the Garden of Earthly Delights (Prado) appear to be intricate allegories; their symbolism, however, is obscure and has consistently defied unified interpretation. Bosch clearly had an interest in the grotesque, the diabolical, the exuberant, and the macabre. He also may have been the first European painter to depict scenes of everyday life, although often with a strong element of the bizarre.

The Temptation of St. Anthony and The Last Judgment were recurring themes; versions of the Adoration of the Magi are in the Metropolitan Museum and in the Philadelphia Museum, which also has the Mocking of Christ. He had many imitators and signed only seven of his paintings, and scholars have attributed over the years fewer and fewer of the works originally thought to be his to him. By the beginning of the 21st cent., only 25 to 30 paintings and some 20 drawings were definitively ascribed to Bosch. He deeply influenced the work of Peter Bruegel the Elder, and in the 20th cent. was hailed as a forerunner of the surrealists; his work continues to be influential.

See his paintings, ed. by G. Martin (1966, repr. 1971); biographies by W. Fraenger (1983), W. S. Gibson (1985), and G. Schwartz (2016); studies by J. Snyder, ed. (1973) and G. Schwartz (1997).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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