Hieronymus Bosch, 1450-1516. Usually, excessively busy works of art are the mark of an amateur; focusing too much on deep, convoluted detail often causes detriment to other aspects of the work. Bosch is one of the exceptions to this rule. His work is somewhat primitive at times, but always carries an undeniable power.

What's his secret? Allegory combined with out-and-out imagination. Like most other pre-to-mid-Renaissance painters, he did almost exclusively religious work, but his paintings were always a little more... more. Witness The Garden of Earthly Delights.

The Garden is in a triptych, a format that Bosch favored. When the triptych is closed, the outer panels show the creation of the world. Open it up, and you have a simple, beautiful paradise on one end (featuring a fantastic castle that's copied everywhere in fantasy art - think a happy, fezzed-out version of the towers in The Dark Crystal) and hell on the other (and I'll get to that part in a sec). And in the middle, Earth, with one of the wilder parties of all time happening, hundreds of Renaissance-style swingers cavorting across the canvas, having orgies, riding horses, eating grapes, and other debauched activities. You look at Heaven, which is dead empty except for Jesus and two other lucky souls, and then you see Hell.

Whoo boy. Bosch didn't hold anything back on the Hell panel. You want a torture? You got a torture. Fear being eaten by a bird man? It's there. Getting strung on a lyre, to be strummed for all eternity? There. Got an irrational fear that a pig in a nun's wimple will try to have relations with you? See the lower right hand corner.

Aaaaanyway. It's a simple message here; you lust, you pay. But it just works as a painting. And it strikes some fear in your heart. Hell, I wouldn't wanna have demons force hot pokers up my ass either.

More tidbits about Bosch : he painted in a style called alla prima, where he worked over an initial brown wash of paint. So his paintings look horrid where the pigment has wasted away - the browns leak through. And Bosch never dated his works. And nobody's sure which 'Bosch' painting is according-to-Hoyle Bosch, and which is just a fan's copycat attempt.

Bosch's complex aesthetic style is derived from the astoundingly scatalogical theology of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. During this period, the quite complex doctrine of the Catholic church was matched by the proliferation of minor sects, such as the Cult of Joseph, and mystical religious thinkers like Thomas a Kempis, who initiated the asceticism of the Devotio Moderna. In addition, there was an abundance of folklore and apocrypha, and plenty of general superstition.

In his paintings' iconography, one can see the myriad referential symbols and narrative archetypes being used to convey a very conservative Catholic message. To this day, many art historians spend their time trying to track the derivation of symbols and ideas in his work to their contemporary sources.

For example, he frequently uses eggs in his scenes: people in eggs, half-egg-shaped humans, and so on. To many, this might seem to be a simple visual device with no greater meaning in any representational system; in the early part of the twentieth century, no one knew what it meant, and assumed it meant nothing. Scholars eventually discerned, however, that the egg was the symbol of alchemy, which was a considered a sinful pursuit during the late middle ages. People of Bosch's time would have recognized this, but many of his symbols are no longer widely understood today

Bosch is sometimes referred to as a surrealist, or as an extremely 'weird' artist, but his rigorously iconographical style was in fact a very specific (and the time intelligible) way of admonishing viewers to heed Catholic dogma.

Hieronymus Bosch is also the main character in a number of Michael Connelly murder mysteries, including The Black Echo, The Black Ice, The Concrete Blonde, A Darkness More Than Night (my favorite, of the admittedly few I've read), City of Bones, Angels Flight, Trunk Music, and The Last Coyote. I believe that's all that are currently out, though not necessarily in the order written.
Going mostly by the name Harry, Bosch is named after the artist, whose work plays a role in A Darkness More Than Night.
Most of Connelly's work consists of Bosch mysteries, though he has written a few others, including Void Moon and Blood Work (which is currently (2002) being made into a movie starring Clint Eastwood).
Bosch is an LAPD detective who has a severe distaste for authority; when we meet him in The Last Coyote, he has just been suspended from the force and sent to a psychologist for throwing his boss though the window in the front of his boss's office.

Hieronymus Bosch (1450- 1516) was one of the first Flemish master painters. Although his work was mostly iconic altar pieces commissioned by wealthy burghers his unique amalgamation of traditional styles and artistic innovation drew patrons such as Philip II and followers including the famous Pieter Breughel the Elder. Saved by the spectacular religious nature of his art quite a few of his works were preserved and now are cared for in some of the finest museums on the planet.

Bosch was born Jeronimus (or Jeroen) Van Aeken in 's-Hertogenbosch (Bois-le-Duc), a small town in what is now the Netherlands close to the Belgian border. ‘Bosch’ is a surname derived from the town’s name. His father, Antonius Van Aeken, and grandfather were prominent painters in the town before him. It is widely assumed that his father taught him much of the technical skill he learned.

Hieronymus Bosh lived his entire life in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. As a devout Roman Catholic he joined the Confraternity of Our Lady (sometimes referred to as the Brotherhood of the Holy Virgin) and designed some of the holy art in the impressive Saint John cathedral. His paintings reflect the strong hold of the Church over the Middle Ages mind. Preoccupied by darkness, evil and the various sins of everyday humanity Bosh brings sweeping images of man’s mindless misdeeds rushing us towards our perceived fiery ends. In fact, his paintings were so alive and vivid that some critics called him a heretic. Dangerous reviews for an artist in the years before Reformation.

Bosh used heavy symbolism in his art from a spray of hay (a fake star of Bethlehem) over the head of the false Messiah as he steps, half naked, into the center panel of The Epiphany to an arrow (representative of eternal death) through the hat of one of Christ’s tormentors in Christ Crowned with Thorns. The arrow appears again held in the hand of death in Death and the Miser.

Bosch did not date his paintings and frequently did not sign them. After his death in 1516 many of his followers and imitators signed plenty, even using his stylistic signature as Boschian paintings grew in demand. Among the surviving signed paintings these are, generally, accepted as authentic:

    The Adoration of the Magi (Prado, Madrid),
    Christ Crowned with Thorns (National Gallery, London),
    Christ Carrying the Cross (Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent),
    The Marriage at Cana (Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam),
    The Temptation of Saint Anthony (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon),
    The Seven Deadly Sins (Prado),
    The Ship of Fools (The Louvre, Paris),
    The Hay Wain (Prado),
    The Death of the Miser (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C),
    The Epiphany (Prado),
    Crucifixion (Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels),

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