Hieronymus Bosch

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Bosch, Hieronymus

Bosch, Hieronymus, or Jerom Bos (hērônˈĭməs, yāˈrôm bôs), 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).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Bosch, Hieronymus


(pseudonym of Hieronymus van Aeken). Born circa 1450–60 in s’Hertogenbosch; died there in 1516. Dutch painter.

Bosch painted religious, allegorical, and genre subjects —The Temptation of Saint Anthony, in the National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon; The Head Operation and the triptychs the Haywain, the Garden of Earthly Delights, and the Adoration of the Magi, in the Prado, Madrid; the Ship of Fools, in the Louvre, Paris; and The Prodigal Son, in the Boymans-van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam. Bosch’s art, which developed at a turning point in the history of Dutch painting, is complex and contradictory. It is characterized by a bold widening of the range of themes and objects which were of unusual character and frequently fantastic quality. Bosch combined a highly developed medieval sense of fantasy and somber, demonic images with popular satirical and moralistic tendencies. The sources of his art were popular proverbs, sayings, parables, and superstitions. Bosch’s innovative trends, the vividness of his folk types and scenes of everyday life, and the striking freshness and vitality of his landscape backgrounds paved the way for the development of Dutch genre and landscape painting.


Tolnay, K. Hieronimus Bosch. Baden-Baden, 1965.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Bosch, Hieronymus

(c. 1450–1516) paintings contain grotesque representations of evil and temptation. [Art Hist.: Osborne, 149]
See: Horror
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.