oil on panel
support: h 74.7 cm × w 240 cm
oil on panel
support: h 74.7 cm × w 240 cm
The support consists of three horizontally grained oak planks (20.2, 28 and 26.7 cm), and has been thinned to a thickness of 0.7-0.9 cm and cradled. The thinning of the panel has exposed the dowel channels of the original butt-joins. Dendrochronology has shown that the youngest heartwood ring was formed in 1569. The panel could have been ready for use by 1580, but a date in or after 1594 is more likely. The white ground was applied up to the edges of the support. Underdrawing is not visible with the naked eye, nor could it be detected with infrared reflectography. The figures were reserved. The brushstrokes are clearly visible, and there are many whitish highlights.
Fair. The painting is slightly abraded. There is stable lifting paint locally, and discoloured retouchings along the joins and edges. The varnish is rather matte, thick and severely discoloured.
...; from the dealer F. Kleinberger, Paris, fl. 1,455, as Flemish school, first part of the 16th century, to the museum, March 1896; on loan to the Rijksmuseum Muiderslot, Muiden, 1949-78; on loan to the Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht, since 1984
Object number: SK-A-1673
Copyright: Public domain
Jheronimus Bosch (’s-Hertogenbosch c. 1450 - ’s-Hertogenbosch 1516), manner of
Jheronimus Bosch came from a prodigiously artistic family. His great-grandfather, Thomas van Aken, his grandfather Jan and his father Antonius were all painters. His grandfather left Aachen for Nijmegen and then moved to ’s-Hertogenbosch, where he is first documented in 1427. Four of his sons became painters as well. The youngest, Antonius, married Aleid van der Mynnen, and their three sons, Goessen, Jheronimus and Jan all once again followed their father’s profession.
Bosch is mentioned – usually with just his forename Jheronimus or Jeroen – in a number of documents drawn up in ’s-Hertogenbosch between 1474 and 1516. In the earliest of them, dated 5 April 1474, he acted together with his father and brothers as witnesses for his sister Katherijn. The artist used the toponym Bosch to sign a few of his works ‘Jheronimus Bosch’. He probably trained in his father’s workshop.
Between July 1477 and June 1481, Bosch married Aleid van der Meervenne, who was born into quite a well-to-do family in Oirschot, a village south of ’s-Hertogenbosch. In the city they moved into her house, ‘Inden Salvator’ (In the Saviour), but it is not known precisely when. Bosch became prosperous, thanks to his wife, and began moving in the city’s higher social circles, which included the influential Brotherhood of Our Lady. He became an ordinary member in 1486-87, and was elected a sworn brother the following year, 1487-88. That Jheronimus Bosch was quite well off can be deduced from tax returns. Bosch was probably one of the victims of an outbreak of the plague in ’s-Hertogenbosch in the summer of 1516. He was buried in the churchyard of the city’s St Janskerk. His patrons belonged to the circle of the Burgundian Habsburg Court and the wealthy bourgeoisie in Brabant.
Regrettably, the surviving documents contain little information about Bosch’s activities as an artist. The only documented commission for a painting dates from September 1504, when he was asked to paint a Last Judgement for Philip the Handsome, Duke of Brabant, which indicates that he was a recognised artist. Apart from that, only a few minor commissions are recorded, among others for polychroming an altarpiece and for designing a crucifix.
Opinions on the attribution of the paintings differ considerably. None of the paintings are dated, and their chronology is the subject of much discussion. Until 2010, more than 30 paintings were attributed to Bosch, of which nine are signed ‘Jheronimus Bosch’. Between 2010 and 2015 the Dutch Bosch Research and Conservation Project (BRCP) investigated most of them and concluded that whereas 21 are works made by the master himself, four are from his workshop, seven were executed by followers, and two are either made by his workshop or by a follower.1
Eight of these 21 paintings are triptychs: The Garden of Earthly Delights triptych,2 probably commissioned by Engelbert van Nassau (1451-1504), the two versions of The Haywain,3 The Last Judgement, signed,4 The Last Judgement with Saint James the Apostle and Saint Bavo (or Saint Hippolyte),5 The Temptation of St Antony, signed,6 Hermits Saints Triptych Sts Jerome, Antony and Giles, signed,7 The Adoration of the Magi,8 and The Martyrdom of St Wilgefortis, signed ‘Julia’ (?).9 Three individual panels are also signed: St John on Patmos,10 St Christopher,11 and Tabletop of the Seven Deadly Sins.12
Although most specialists now agree that other members of the workshop participated in the execution of many of Bosch’s works, Koreny attributed a number of major works, such as The Haywain triptych, the Lissabon triptych and The Last Judgement in Bruges, to his pupils.13 To complicate matters, several works are known only through copies. Jheronimus Bosch was hugely popular in the second half of the 16th century, and this gave rise to the large number of copies and pastiches executed long after his death that have survived. The latter group (see SK-A-3113, SK-A-1601, SK-A-3240, SK-A-1673, SK-A-4131) consists of new inventions in Bosch’s style using elements or quotations from his paintings.
Van Mander 1604, fols. 216v-17r; Cohen in Thieme/Becker IV, 1910, pp. 386-90; Friedländer V, 1927, pp. 70-106; De Tolnay 1937, pp. 75-82; Baldass 1943, pp. 5-82; De Tolnay 1965, pp. 407-08; Gerlach 1967; ENP V, 1969, pp. 45-58; Marijnissen 1987, pp. 11-14; Miedema III, 1996, pp. 48-58; Gibson in Saur XIII, 1996, pp. 160-62; Vandenbroeck in Turner 1996, IV, pp. 445-54; Van Dijck 2001, pp. 139-205; Vink 2001; Silver 2006, pp. 127-59; Huys Janssen 2007; Koreny 2012, pp. 86-113; ’s-Hertogenbosch 2016, pp. 11-12; Schwartz 2016, pp. 36-52; Ilsink et al. 2016, pp. 13-32; Madrid 2016, pp. 17-41; BoschDoc
J. Bogers, 2010
Updated by J.P. Filedt Kok, 2016
This many-figured, oblong composition depicts the battle between Shrove Tuesday (Carnival) and Lent, in other words between excess and moderation. A little man playing the bagpipes who personifies the carnival is being carried on a table out of the kitchen on the left. His pitcher of drink has fallen over, to the glee of one of the people carrying him. In the kitchen itself, the activities around the fireplace allude to Shrove Tuesday, and the cleaning of fish to Lent. The round table on the right is being carried on a woman’s head, and on it are just two fish in reference to the meagre Lenten diet. To the right of the woman is a colossal bagpipe containing a lute-player and several other figures. The foreground is largely filled with two dancing couples (monks and nuns), and their dance is the dance of fools, signifying stupidity.14 The fool with his bauble in the left middleground, the odd headgear of some of the figures, the pitcher, spindles, bellows, the basket with a cat and a stone, are also symbols of folly.15
There are several versions of this scene.16 A version in grisaille that has been considerably truncated on the left and right has been in the collection of the Noordbrabants Museum in ’s-Hertogenbosch since 1988 (fig. a).17 Unverfehrt dated this version between 1540 and 1550, long after Bosch’s death, making it the earliest of them all, but doubted that Bosch was the inventor of the composition.18 The fairly sober grisaille technique gives the painting in ’s-Hertogenbosch a rather archaic look, and for that reason it does vaguely recall the work of Bosch.
The technique and style of the Rijksmuseum version and of another coloured, almost identical one in the Museum Mayer van den Bergh in Antwerp make them appear much later.19 The Antwerp version is usually dated around 1560. The one in Amsterdam, which differs from the others in having an inscription, has to be dated to the closing decades of the 16th century on the basis of the dendrochronology.
It is very unlikely that The Battle between Carnival and Lent is based on a lost work by Jheronimus Bosch, and one can even wonder whether it can be regarded as an imitation in his manner. Only the people making music in the bagpipe recall his work. It would perhaps be better, then, to place the invention of the composition in Antwerp around 1560 with followers of Bosch like Frans Huys and Jan Verbeeck.20 Finally, the painting raises the question as to the iconographic relationship between this scene and Pieter Brueghel’s Battle between Carnival and Lent of 1559 in Vienna.21
The inscription about Luther dancing with his nun, which was assumed in the past to be a later addition, does fit in well with the satirical connotations that were attached to works by Bosch and his followers in this period.22 The inscription led to the fat monk in the middle being identified as Luther, and the nun as his wife, Katherine von Bora. In this reading the painting is a satirical comment on the turbulent developments taking place in the Church in the 16th century.23
J. Bogers, 2010
Literature updated by J.P. Filedt Kok, 2016
Van Bastelaer/Hulin de Loo 1907, p. 216, note 1; Glück 1932, pp. 265-66; Enklaar 1937, p. 72, note 5; De Tolnay 1937, p. 102, no. 41; Bax 1949, p. 197; Genaille 1954, p. 288 (as copy after the grisaille by Bosch in the Thyssen collection, Schloss Rohoncz); De Tolnay 1965, no. 41, p. 380; ’s-Hertogenbosch 1967, p. 139, no. 40; Arndt 1968, pp. 6-7; De Mirimonde 1971, p. 34; Unverfehrt 1980, p. 286, no. 146a.a; Zijpin in Utrecht 1983, p. 38; Vandenbroeck 1987, pp. 306-10; Bijl et al. 1989, pp. 200-01; ’s-Hertogenbosch 1992, p. 110, no. 46; coll. cat. Utrecht 2002, p. 160 (as southern Netherlands, second half 16th century); De Vrij 2012, p. 588, no. E. 55; Rotterdam 2015, pp. 68, 70-71 (as a copy after Bosch, c. 1600-20)
1903, p. 30, no. 345 (as Flemish school, first half 16th century); 1934, no. 345 (as copy after the grisaille attributed to Bosch now in ’s-Hertogenbosch); 1976, p. 136, no. A 1673 (as copy after Bosch); 1992, p. 45, no. A 1673 (as copy after Bosch)