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Bosch, Hieronymus

S'Hertogenbosch (Netherlands), ca. 1450 - S'Hertogenbosch (Netherlands), 1516

Jheronimus van Aken, better known as Jheronimus Bosch, belonged to a family of painters spanning six generations; his earliest artistic forebears came to Nijmegen (Duchy of Guelders) from Aachen -if, as is presumed, “Aken” was their original surname- and later settled in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
There are still many gaps in the biography of Jheronimus Bosch. We do not know, for example, where his parents were living when he was born, nor is there any certainty as to the year of his birth, generally thought to be around 1450. The earliest reference to Bosch dates from 5 April 1474, when, with his father Anthonius and his brothers Goessen and Jan, he witnessed his sister Katharina’s sale of the mortgage on a house in the village of Geffen. Since he figures alongside his father, Anthonius van Aken, it has been suggested that Bosch may not yet have turned twenty-four, the minimum legal age for independently signing a deed in‘s-Hertogenbosch.
A document dated 15 June 1481 refers to Bosch as the husband of Aleid van de Meervenne. She must have been somewhat older than him, though the difference in age has perhaps been exaggerated. Aleid was probably born no later than 1447: in a deed dated 2 September 1471, she and her sister Geertruid granted power of attorney to a representative to act for them -since they were women- indicating that they were both at least twenty-four years old. The date of Bosch’s marriage to Aleid is no more certain than that of his birth; they must, however, have been married by 1480. On 30 July 1477, Aleid rented out a house known as “Inden Salvatoer”, which she had inherited from her maternal grandfather Rutger van Arkel. The house, located on the northern side of Market Square (now no. 61), would later become her married home. The tenant was one Peter Peterss Marsse, and the lease was for six years, until July 1483. Aleid must have been single at the time, otherwise her husband would have acted for her, as he did later. The marriage must therefore have taken place between 31 July 1477 and 14 June 1481.
Apart from the records relating to Bosch, his family and his wife’s properties, some documentary evidence has survived regarding his membership of the Brotherhood of Our Lady. This institution, to which his parents and grandparents had also belonged as ordinary members, met in its chapel on the north-east side of Saint John’s church in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Bosch was admitted as an ordinary member in 1486/87 (fol. 42v). His name, “Jheronimus, son of Anthonis van Aken”, appears along with those of over 350 members from the Low Countries and Germany who were admitted that year. Exceptionally, Bosch became a sworn member just one year later. His name, “Jeroen the painter” appears in the same handwriting in the margin of a document listing the nine sworn members (1487/88; fol. 95) who generally attended the Swan Banquet at around Christmas every year.
In summer 1516, ‘s-Hertogenbosch was struck by an epidemic, characterized by cholera-like symptoms. Bosch may have been among the victims. Although there is no record of the date of his death, the accounts for 1516/17 (fol. 119) record that a requiem mass for “Jeronimus van Aken painter” was held on 9 August 1516 in the Brotherhood’s chapel at Saint John’s church; it was conducted by Dean Willem Hamaker, assisted by a deacon and subdeacon, with music provided by an organist and choir. The presence of gravediggers suggests that this was a funeral mass, and that therefore Bosch must have died only a few days earlier. The annual list of members’ deaths for 1516 (fol. 159v), drawn up by the treasurer, included “Jeronimus van Aken painter, sworn brother”. Although his burial-place is unknown, he was probably interred in the church courtyard, reached directly from the north transept.
As Bosch’s fame spread, his memory must have been kept alive among members of the Brotherhood. In around 1577, Maarten Sheeren compiled a list of former members. The section entitled “Obitus fratrum” included a reference to “Jheronimus Aquen[sis] alias Bosch, insignis pictor”. In 1742, Simon van der Velde produced the so-called “Armorial” of the Brotherhood, which provided depictions in colour of the coats of arms of all the members. Although the members of Bosch’s family are unlikely to have made any use of armorial bearings, the painter appears in this volume with the outline of an empty escutcheon. The inscription below reads: “Hieronimus Aquiens alias Bosch ser vermaerd schilder” (“very famous painter”) (Silva, P.: Bosch: The 5th Centenary Exhibition, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2016, pp. 18-24).

Artworks (14)

La Creación
Oil on panel, s XV - XVI century
El Bosco (Workshop of)
Las tentaciones de San Antonio Abad
Oil on oak panel, s XV - XVI century
El Bosco (Copy)
Fantasía moral (Visio tondali)
Oil on panel, XV century
El Bosco (Copy)
The Garden of Earthly Delights Triptych
Grisaille on oak panel, 1490 - 1500
El Bosco
The Adoration of the Magi Triptych
Grisaille on oak panel, 1494
El Bosco
Extracting the stone of madness
Oil on oak panel, 1501 - 1505
El Bosco
Un ángel conduce a un alma por las regiones infernales
Oil on panel, XVI century
El Bosco (Manner of)
Las tentaciones de San Antonio Abad
Oil on oak panel, XVI century
El Bosco (Copy)
Table of the Seven Deadly Sins
Oil on poplar panel, 1505 - 1510
El Bosco

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