Foto Mike Brink

New discoveries and restored paintings shown for the first time at large-scale Hieronymus Bosch exhibition

11 februari 2016

The international exhibition Hieronymus Bosch – Visions of Genius opens this Saturday (13 February) at the Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch, where it will run until 8 May 2016. Hieronymus Bosch is viewed worldwide as the most intriguing and exciting Netherlandish artist of the late Middle Ages. The exhibition includes the lion’s share of his surviving paintings and drawings, and is based on the most comprehensive research ever performed into the artist’s oeuvre: the Bosch Research and Conservation Project (BRCP). Never before have so many of Bosch’s works returned to his home town of ’s Hertogenbosch, where he created them over 500 years ago. His Majesty King Willem-Alexander will officially open the exhibition on Friday 12 February.

Nine years in preparation

The idea for the exhibition dates back to 2001. Having seen the Bosch exhibition in Rotterdam, the mayor of ’s Hertogenbosch, Ton Rombouts, called for the city to honour its most famous son in 2016 – the 500th anniversary of his death – with a large-scale exhibition of his work at the Noordbrabants Museum. The mayor’s plan initially encountered a good deal of scepticism in ’s Hertogenbosch: after all, the city had no works by Bosch to loan in return when negotiating with other museums.
In 2007, however, the Bosch expert and professor of art history at Nijmegen, Jos Koldeweij, and the director of the Noordbrabants Museum, Charles de Mooij, presented an original proposal to the City Council. The creation of a research and conservation initiative focusing on Hieronymus Bosch’s artistic legacy and based in ’s Hertogenbosch might persuade other museums to join forces for an exhibition there in 2016. So it was that the Bosch Research and Conservation Project (BRCP) came to be established.

ABOUT THE BRCP

Launch of the BRCP

De Mooij began to visit the relevant museums in the United States and Europe in 2008, to invite them to collaborate on the research project. The Jheronimus Bosch 500 Foundation, Radboud University Nijmegen and the Noordbrabants Museum set up the Bosch Research and Conservation Project in 2009 to study and, where necessary, restore the surviving paintings and drawings of Hieronymus Bosch. An interdisciplinary research team headed by Jos Koldeweij and coordinator Matthijs Ilsink then began work in 2010. In the years that followed, virtually all Bosch’s paintings and drawings were examined intensively and systematically, using the most advanced equipment available and the latest techniques.

BRCP publications

The research team’s activities attracted considerable interest from around the world because of its methodology, the spectacular documentation it has produced in the form of extremely high-resolution images of Bosch’s work, and a number of highly publicised attributions and discoveries. The restorations performed with the BRCP’s support also drew a great deal of attention. The BRCP has published the results of its research in a two-part Hieronymus Bosch monograph, comprising a catalogue of his works and a volume of technical studies, running to a total of just over 1,000 pages. A highly advanced yet extremely user-friendly website has also been created: boschproject.org, where all the BRCP documentation can be viewed (launch 19 February). And it goes without saying that the fruits of the BRCP’s work are also reflected in the exhibition Hieronymus Bosch – Visions of Genius and in the exhibition catalogue of the same name.

ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

Exhibition: lion’s share of Bosch’s oeuvre

Based on six years of intensive and comprehensive research, the BRCP’s team of experts ultimately attributed 24 paintings and 20 drawings to Bosch himself. No fewer than 17 of these paintings and 19 drawings can be seen at the exhibition, including two spectacular new discoveries that have been in the news recently: the drawing Infernal Landscape, from a Belgian private collection, and the painting The Temptation of St Anthony from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri (USA). The exhibition also includes six paintings that the researchers believe were made by assistants of Hieronymus Bosch at his workshop on the main square in Den Bosch. In addition to these, a series of objects are displayed that sketch the cultural context in which Bosch’s works were produced, including rare 15th and 16th-century manuscripts, printed books, prints, sculpture, and brass, silver and gold metalwork.

Masterpieces from world-famous museums

The dozens of loans come from leading European and American museums. They include the celebrated Haywain from the Museo Nacional del Prado (Madrid), the Ship of Fools from the Musée du Louvre (Paris) and four Afterlife Panels from the Gallerie dell’Accademia (Venice). The exhibition also boasts masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (Rotterdam), the Metropolitan Museum (New York), the Gemäldegalerie (Berlin), and the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna). The exceptionally large number of paintings and drawings will offer visitors a unique opportunity to study Hieronymus Bosch’s revolutionary and highly imaginative visual language in depth and at first hand.

Nine paintings restored

The condition of the exhibited works is also exceptional. No fewer than nine paintings by Bosch himself were restored in preparation for the exhibition. Virtually all of these often spectacular restorations occurred with the financial support and/or advice of the Bosch Research and Conservation Project (BRCP), with the backing of the Gieskes-Strijbis Fund and the Getty Foundation. The paintings in question have now been given back their original colour and eloquence. The exhibition in ’s Hertogenbosch is the first time they have been seen in public, which means the presentation offers a new and surprising view of Hieronymus Bosch’s updated oeuvre.

Temporarily reunited

Several separated and scattered works have been reunited for the duration of the exhibition. Like several other of Hieronymus Bosch’s triptychs, the so-called ‘Wayfarer Triptych’, for instance, was broken up in the course of the centuries The side panels were sawn apart and ended up in four different museums, while the central panel was lost. The backs and fronts of the wings were separated, and the outsides were sawn into a different shape to create the octagonal ‘Wayfarer’ painting now in the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. The work has been reunited for the exhibition with the other fragments: the ‘Ship of Fools’ (Musée du Louvre), the ‘Allegory of Gluttony and Lust’ (Yale University Art Gallery) and ‘Death and the Miser’ (National Gallery of Art, Washington). The reunification of the spectacularly restored ‘Ship of Fools’ and the ‘Allegory of Gluttony and Lust’ – which can now be viewed as a single image for the first time since their separation – is particularly spectacular. It is not the only example of an extraordinary reunion, however: elements of the former altarpiece of the Brotherhood of Our Lady from St John’s Cathedral in Den Bosch have also been brought back together for the exhibition from three different countries.

Exhibition themes

The exhibition is organised thematically along broad, spatial lines. The following six themes guide visitors through the presentation: The Pilgrimage of Life, Bosch in ’s Hertogenbosch, The Life of Christ, Bosch as Draughtsman, Saints and the End Times. The exhibition incorporates reconstructions and visual displays that draw on the technologies developed for the research project to provide a unique insight into the creation of Bosch's works.

Hieronymus Bosch: the Netherlands’ most important medieval painter

Bosch is best known for the demonic figures, famous monsters, angels and saints that populate his drawings and panels. His highly distinctive work, full of illusions and hallucinations, weird creatures and nightmares, represents the great themes of his time, such as temptation, sin and final reckoning, like no other. Created around 1500, as the Middle Ages were giving way to the Renaissance, Bosch’s paintings and drawings offer an enigmatic view of the relationship between individual human beings, their surroundings and their creator. Bosch ranks among the absolute greats of world art; his work influenced generations of followers, and continues to inspire new artists today.

‘Hieronymus Bosch is the most important and original medieval artist our country ever produced.
It has been a long-cherished ambition to bring the majority of his works back to his home town in 2016. This is also a fantastic opportunity for a new generation to discover
this work, which is unique in every respect.'

Charles de Mooij, Director of the Noordbrabants Museum

Highly successful ticket sales: 90,000 booked already

Tickets for the exhibition went on sale in December 2015 and have been selling well. 90,000 tickets have been purchased so far by art lovers from all over the world. The figure includes 15,000 tickets reserved for Dutch schools. Exhibition tickets and audiotours can be purchased via tickets.hnbm.nl. A system of time slots will apply to the exhibition. Please see the attached fact sheet for more information.

Acknowledgements

The exhibition is part of the Hieronymus Bosch 500 Year and was made possible by the Municipalit of ’s-Hertogenbosch, the Province of North Brabant, The Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, BankGiro Loterij, Essent, Rabobank, Gieskes-Strijbis Fund, Fonds 21, Ammodo, the Prince Bernhard Cultural Fund, KLM and the Getty Foundation.

ABOUT ‘BOSCH 500’

Year-long ‘Bosch 500’ celebrations in the Netherlands

Den Bosch, together with the Netherlands as a whole, is this year celebrating the return of most of the works of the world-famous painter Hieronymus Bosch to the city where he created them more than 500 years ago. It is a tribute to the country’s most important medieval artist. For one time only, the majority of his oeuvre is returning to ’s-Hertogenbosch, the city where he was born as Jheronimus van Aken, where he painted his masterpieces and from which he borrowed his professional surname of ‘Bosch’. The exhibition is the highpoint of Hieronymus Bosch 500 – a series of events organised throughout 2016 to mark the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death. But there is more: much more, in fact. Visitors will be treated to a cultural event with a richly varied programme that has something for everybody interested in the medieval master, his world and his work. In 2016, Den Bosch and the rest of the Netherlands will be completely immersed in ‘Hieronymus Bosch 500’, with events such including special music, dance, theatre and circus performances, exhibitions, thematic routes and festivals. Visit www.bosch500.nl for the full programme.  

See also:

Jheronimus Bosch - Visions of Genius

Press File including Images

Bosch Research and Conservation Project

Press File including Images