Painter Hieronymus Bosch’s fantastic animals


Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch, detail

This photo shows a detail of the painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch.

As I blogged before, on 8 July 2016 we were in the natural history museum in Tilburg, the Netherlands, for the exhibition about animals in the paintings by Hieronymus Bosch.

Many animals in Bosch’ age were used as symbols, eg of sinful or good human qualities: eg, peacocks for vanity. The catalogue of the exhibition says that many of these late medieval-early Renaissance symbolic meanings have become lost and are unclear now. We don’t know whether Bosch interpreted animals as symbols 100% like some contemporaries did. There are doves in Bosch’ paintings. Symbols of peace? Or symbols of prostitution, which they also used to be sometimes? We cannot be sure.

There are four types of animals in Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings. First, autochthonous west European animals which Bosch knew well. Like little owls: in The Garden of Earthly Delights, in The Wayfarer, and in St. Jerome at Prayer.

Or like the great tit in The Wayfarer.

Or like the magpie in The Wayfarer. According to the exhibition organisation, the magpie used to be a symbol of a soul liberated from sin. Also to Bosch? We cannot be completely sure.

The second category in Bosch’s work are exotic animals new for west Europeans; like giraffes. In his The Garden of Earthly Delights, in its left panel, Bosch depicted a giraffe. He very probably never had seen a living giraffe. The animal looks much like a picture from a book by fifteenth century Italian humanist Cyriacus of Ancona.

Cyriacus, according to a biography:

was not a religious man – not in the manner of most of his contemporaries.

Cyriacus’ ideas about science were at variance with Catholic Church doctrine. Much of his work got lost. That Bosch knew it and referred to it may be another sign of him being critical of religious (and secular) authority, besides other signs of that in his art.

Camel, by Hieronymus Bosch

Camels were then also considered exotic, like this one in the Garden of Earthly Delights.

In Bosch’s work there are also two kinds of fantasy animals. Animals which traditionally were supposed to exist, like unicorns and griffons. And animals which were products of Bosch’s own imagination; often half one animal species, half another animal species or object. Like the half spoonbill half ship in the Triptych of the Temptation of St. Anthony. In this blog post we will now discuss mainly the last two categories, especially in the Garden of Earthly Delights.

Unicorn and birds

This detail of the painting shows, eg, a unicorn; a bird with three heads; a bird with an arrow-like tongue and a bird vaguely looking like a hummingbird.

The Tilburg exhibition also includes work by twenty-first century artists like Neige, inspired by Bosch’s fantasy animals.

Bird by Hieronymus Bosch

Here are two other birds in which Bosch used his imagination. One standing; one drinking.

Bird drinking, by Hieronymus Bosch

Birds by Hieronymus Bosch

And many more birds here; some may be real, some imaginary.

Griffon and deer by Hieronymus Bosch

In this detail are people riding not only on a horse, but also on a wild boar, on a deer with a surrealist kind of antlers, and on a griffon.

Griffon and deer and wild boar, by Hieronymus Bosch

Real birds in Hieronymus Bosch’s fantastic paintings


Little owl, Bosch, Garden of earthly delights

This picture shows a little owl, by famous painter Hieronymus Bosch. It is in his painting The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Little owl, Hieronymus Bosch

This photo shows a little owl as well. In Bosch’s painting The Wayfarer.

Hieronymus Bosch, The Wayfarer

That little owl, like many other animals in Bosch’s work, is a little detail in a painting full of little details.

We saw these owls on 8 July 2016, when we were in the natural history museum in Tilburg, the Netherlands.

The Tilburg exhibition on animals in Bosch’s works did not show the original works of art. These had been earlier this year in the exhibition in Den Bosch; and are now in the exhibition in the Prado museum in Madrid.

The Tilburg exhibition had reproductions of Bosch’s paintings. And also many stuffed animals of species shown by Bosch. I think there was a mistake in these stuffed animals: they included a North American black bear. A species not known to Bosch as far as I know. The bears in Bosch’s work are European brown bears; not present among the stuffed animals in the exhibition.

Why did Bosch depict so many animals? We cannot be sure. As far as we know, Bosch never wrote about his work. Many animals in Bosch’ age were used as symbols, eg of sinful or good human qualities: eg, peacocks for vanity. The catalogue of the exhibition says that many of these late medieval-early Renaissance symbolic meanings have become lost and are unclear now.

Did Bosch agree 100% with what his contemporaries thought about symbolic meanings of animals? Maybe he did not agree 100%. His works show signs of non-conformism. In west European medieval social thought, the clergy were the first estate. The nobility was the second estate. Town-dwelling bourgeois, like Bosch in Den Bosch town, were the third estate.

Tradition said that bourgeois had to mind that they did not have as many rights as clergymen, kings, counts or barons (though more than peasant serfs). However, in his The Haywain, Bosch depicted the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and the pope as sinners who might end up in hell. He depicted a nun as a money-grabbing half pig, half human in The Garden of Earthly Delights. He depicted an armoured knight as a partly human, partly other mammal, partly bird being in hell in the same painting.

Art historian Marrigje Rikken recently wrote about images of animals between 1550 and 1630 becoming an art genre in themselves. In the dominant medieval view on art, artists worked mainly for the Roman Catholic church. They made art with religious subjects. Depicting animals could be a part of that, if it fitted in religious frameworks like the Garden of Eden or Noah’s Ark. In the sixteenth and seventeenth countries, certainly in the Low Countries, the link between artists, the Catholic church and the nobility became looser. According to Ms Rikken, there was a gradual change from earlier emblematic, symbolic depictions of animals in a religious framework to more scientific depictions; in which religion faded more and more into the background.

According to Rikken, the number of animals featured in works of art gradually increased. More and more, animals became subjects in themselves, not minor parts of religious depictions.

Was Hieronymus Bosch an early pioneer of this evolution, at least in some respects? Maybe; we don’t know for sure. He did depict many hundreds of animals. The emblematic-religious framework was still there. We may never know whether Bosch was a true believer in it. Or whether it was convenient for him as a pretext for painting or drawing animals which he loved for its own sake.

There are four types of animals in Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings. Autochthonous west European animals which Bosch knew well. Exotic animals new for west Europeans; like giraffes. And two kinds of fantasy animals. Animals which traditionally were supposed to exist, like unicorns and griffons. And animals which were products of Bosch’s own imagination; often half one animal species, half another species.

In the rest of this blog post we will confine ourselves to real animals; especially non-exotic birds; in The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Spoonbills, Hieronymus Bosch

Like these real spoonbills behind the bathing women.

Spoonbills on goat, Hieronymus Bosch

And these two real spoonbills on the back of a real goat, walking behind fantastic animals.

White storks and barn owl, Hieronymus Bosch

And these two white storks on a pig’s back. With above them, a real barn owl sitting on an ‘unreal’ unicorn’s horn. Another proof that Bosch knew the differences between various owl species.

Hooded crow, Hieronymus Bosch

And finally, this hooded crow. A species which used to be common in the Netherlands in winter; but is rare there now.

There will be more on this blog about that Hieronymus Bosch exhibition. So, stay tuned!

Abstract expressionist painting in Cornwall


This video says about itself:

21 July 2016

While Abstract Expressionism was mostly associated with New York City and its vibrant arts scene, it also had an outpost in St Ives, a small coastal town in Cornwall, England. Julian Stallabrass speaks to curator Chris Stephens about the art of two of its main protagonists, art critic and painter Patrick Heron and artist Peter Lanyon. How did their work incorporate the movements key themes of abstraction, landscape and the sublime?

One stolen Dutch painting will return to museum


Nieuwstraat in Hoorn (1784) - Izaak Ouwater (recent photo)

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Again painting stolen from Westfries Museum found

Today, 16:09

The West Frisian Museum in Hoorn has once again found one of 24 paintings that were stolen from the museum in 2005. It is Isaac Ouwater‘s Nieuwstraat in Hoorn.

A Ukrainian delivered the 1784 painting today to the Dutch embassy in Kiev. According to the Westfries Museum the man had bought the painting, with authenticity certificate, in good faith.

The buyer is also willing to give back the work to the West Frisian Museum, without conditions. The painting is badly damaged and will not any soon be shown after restoration, according to a spokesman.

Major museum looting

On the night of 9 to January 10, 2005, the painting was stolen along with 23 other paintings and 70 pieces of silverware. According to the museum the loot was the heart of their 17th- and 18th-century collection.

It took years before a trace was found of the stolen art. … Later all the paintings proved to be in Ukraine.

After research by the museum it turned out that the key men in this art theft were Oleh Yaroslavovych Tyahnybok, the leader of the neo-nazi Svoboda party; and Valentyn Oleksandrovych Nalyvaichenko, until recently the boss of the Ukrainian secret police, now a right-wing member of parliament.

Among other things with the help of an art detective then four of the stolen paintings were identified. Of the remaining twenty works now this one has been found. …

It is not yet clear when the recovered paintings will return to the museum in Hoorn. The Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security has already submitted an application to the authorities in Ukraine.

Hieronymus Bosch exhibition, last weekend


This video says about itself:

30 November 2015

Het Noordbrabants Museum presents: Jheronimus Bosch – Visions of a genius. From 13th February to 8th May. Twenty panels and triptychs and nineteen drawings are making it the largest exhibition of Hieronymus Bosch in the Netherlands ever. The exhibition is a highpoint of the National Event Year Jheronimus Bosch 500 in 2016.

That exhibition of works by the famous painter Hieronymus Bosch in Den Bosch, the city where he lived, in the Netherlands, is almost over. This weekend is the last weekend.

Dutch NOS TV reports today that about 400,000 tickets were sold, to visitors from 81 countries.

About 25% of all visitors were from foreign countries. Most from Belgium (7%), Germany (6%) and Britain (4%). Also from countries like South Africa, the USA, Argentina, China and Russia.

Flowers, threatened birds on murals


This 2014 video is from Lisse town in the Netherlands. Artist Judith van der Meer made a mural there, depicting flowers. Lisse is a center for bulb flower growing.

And this 2015 video shows Ms van der Meer making a mural depicting flowers and sports people in a tunnel in Teylingen local authority.

And this 2013 video shows Ms van der Meer making a mural depicting flowers, boats and other items at Sassenheim railway station.

Godwit mural

In April 2016, Ms van der Meer finished her mural at the Ridderspoortunnel in Leiden. The part on the photo depicts a black-tailed godwit. The red around the bird on the picture symbolizes that black-tailed godwits are a threatened species. The Ridderspoortunnel mural the biodiversity in the area. It also depicts a garganey, buttercup, green hawker dragonfly, smooth newt and a ruff.

Caravaggio, Schalcken paintings rediscovered (?)


This video says about itself:

Baroque Caravaggio Project

17 February 2012

Description of Caravaggio‘s paintings:

Judith Beheading Holofernes

Martyrdom of Saint Matthew

The Seven Works of Mercy

Caravaggio depicted Judith Beheading Holofernes twice. One version is well-known and mentioned in the video. The other version appeared to be lost. Until, maybe, now.

From the BBC today:

Painting thought to be Caravaggio masterpiece found in French loft

A painting that may be by the Italian master Caravaggio and worth £94m ($135m) has been found in the loft of a house in southern France.

It was found in Toulouse two years ago and passed to art expert Eric Turquin, who says it is a version of the 1599 work, Judith Beheading Holofernes.

He said it was discovered by the owners when they investigated a roof leak.

The French government has placed a bar on the work leaving the country for 30 months while tests are carried out.

The work, which depicts the Biblical heroine Judith beheading an Assyrian general,

rather: Babylonian

is thought to have gone missing about 100 years after it was painted.

Another version of it, which was also thought to be lost before its rediscovery in 1950, hangs in Rome’s National Gallery of Ancient Art.

Experts at Paris’ Louvre Museum are examining the work to try to establish its creator, though Turquin said there would “never be a consensus” on who painted it.

If it proves to be genuine, the French Government will be given the first chance to purchase the work.

Caravaggio – whose real name was Michelangelo Merisi – was born in 1571 or 1573 and had a violent and chaotic life, dying in mysterious circumstances at the age of 38.

He pioneered the Baroque painting technique known as chiaroscuro, in which light and shadow are sharply contrasted.

He was famed for starting brawls, often ended up in jail, and even killed a man.

He was allegedly on his way to Rome to seek a pardon when he died, having spent the last few years of his life fleeing justice in southern Italy.

Dutch NOS TV reports today that a 1667 painting by Dutch seventeenth century painter Godfried Schalcken has been found again, after having been lost.

Young woman offering a wafer, by Godfried Schalcken

The painting is called Young woman offering a wafer.