Friday, March 20, 2015

Hieronymus Bosch. The Legacy

Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
March 19 to June 15, 2015

Enthusiasm for the fantastic visual world of painter Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) remains as strong today as ever. Characterised by a surreal atmosphere and mysterious mise-en-scène, the late medieval artist’s motifs fascinate and horrify at the same time. Bosch’s scenes of hell, temptations of saints and portrayal of wicked people being punished present crowds of bizarre hybrid creatures, the gruesome sight of which provokes a sense of discomfort in the observer.

While Bosch gained great esteem for his works during his lifetime, the popularity of his imagery skyrocketed shortly after his death and served as inspiration for many of his successors — who were referred to as “devil painters”.

Based in Antwerp, the internationally active art gallery run by Hieronymus Cock and Volcxken Diericx contributed to the early distribution of Bosch’s paintings throughout Europe. The “Aux Quatre Vents” (To the Four Winds) publishing house was the most important publisher north of the Alps. In addition to maps, vedute and reproductions of antique and Italian art, this publishing house also produced the earliest prints in the style of Bosch, for which prominent contemporary artists like Pieter Bruegel the Elder created the originals.

In about 1560, Hieronymus Cock’s publishing house also produced the triptych, engraved by Cornelius Cort, entitled “Die Endzeit, Himmel und Hölle” (The Last Days, Heaven and Hell), which captured the motifs of Bosch’s paintings and transmitted them into the post-Reformation period. From the second edition of the sheet published in about 1600, only a single uncarved copy is known to exist today. In 2012, the Dresden Kupferstich-Kabinett succeeded in purchasing this graphic, which will now be presented to the public as the main work of the exhibition, “Hieronymus Bosch. The Legacy”.

Together with hundreds of other graphic prints, drawings, paintings and objects from the Green Vault and the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts), this sheet illustrates the diverse lasting effect of the art of the painter Bosch on the early modern period and into the 18th century. 

If Bosch’s works were originally founded on religious and moralising motivation, then in the Renaissance period they served as a painted prophecy for the collapse of the Christian religious community and the imminent end of the world. Similarly, Bosch’s motifs, which have been described, among other things, as “grillen” ("vagaries"), “drollen” ("turds") and “capriccios” ("works of fantasy"), inspire a special aesthetic of the grotesque that bears humorous traits despite the inclusion of monsters and sinister hybrid creatures.