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Bosch Research and Conservation Project announces newly discovered drawing by Hieronymus Bosch
Hieronymus Bosch, Infernal Landscape, private collection. Photo: Rik Klein Gotink and Robert G. Erdmann for the Bosch Research and Conservation Project.


DEN BOSCH.- A drawing of hell previously attributed to a workshop assistant of Hieronymus Bosch has now been recognised as an authentic work by the master himself according to the experts conducting the Bosch Research and Conservation Project (BRCP) examining the artist's works worldwide. The drawing has been hidden away in a private collection and will go on public display for the very first time as part of the major exhibition of works by Hieronymus Bosch at the Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch opening on 13 February 2016. Art historian and co-ordinator of the BRCP, Matthijs Ilsink, calls the drawing “an extraordinary find”.

The drawing of the landscape in hell shows a bizarre scene filled with fantastical monsters and diabolical beasts. Because of the size of the sheet and the richness of the spectacle, this drawing forms an exceptionally important addition to the artist's body of drawings. The drawing is virtually unknown: it was auctioned in 2003 by an unknown source and has been part of a private collection ever since.

The landscape is crowded and chaotic, threatening and frightening, just as Bosch imagined hell to be. In the centre of the composition, countless lost souls are caught in a large fishing net and are fed through a kind of water wheel into the mouth of a hellish monster. Human figures hang like clappers from ringing bells, a dragon spews souls from its mouth into a cooking pot, naked sinners sit on a sharp blade of a knife and a creature in the shape of a barrel walks on legs. It is a visual spectacle that we have started describing as 'Boschian' and which we also encounter in Bosch's paintings with hell scenes, such as The Garden of Earthly Delights and The Last Judgement triptychs.

Remarkably enough, precisely that characteristic of the drawing, namely that it is so Boschian, is used by some as an argument against attributing the drawing to Bosch. The scene, they say, is a pastiche, made by an employee or pupil of an artist who would have worked in the atelier of Bosch. Nevertheless, after meticulous study of the drawing and after comparing it with other drawings and paintings by Bosch, Matthijs Ilsink, as an expert on drawings and together with the entire research team of the BRCP, has concluded that this is not the work of an imitator or a pupil, but concerns a drawing created by the master himself.

The quality of the drawing as a whole and the many distinctive details, for instance the figure with the helmet sitting on a barrel with legs, with in it another human figure, is nothing less than magnificent. The drawing gives us a fascinating insight into the methodology that Bosch used to compose images, namely very associative and additive. The artist created his own fantasy world, which he was able to display on paper as a self-evident reality. Here he goes to work in exactly the same manner as with the arrangement of the hell panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights, probably the most famous scene from hell of Western art.

The documentary, Jheronimus Bosch, Touched by the Devil by Pieter van Huystee, which is entirely dedicated to the work of the BRPC, will be premièred on 20 November at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). It includes the discovery and attribution of the drawing to Hieronymus Bosch. The documentary shows how the experts involved in the research project came to new and sometimes surprising insights in relation to the paintings that are known as works by Hieronymus Bosch, his workshop or anonymous imitators. For example, they came to the conclusion that the famous Christ carrying the Cross in Ghent was not painted by Hieronymus Bosch himself, but by a phenomenal artist of which we unfortunately no longer know the name.

Bosch Research and Conservation Project
The Bosch Research and Conservation Project (BRCP) is an ambitious, large-scale international art history study, set up by the Jheronimus Bosch 500 Foundation, the Radboud University of Nijmegen and the Noordbrabants Museum. A team of international experts headed by Jos Koldeweij and Matthijs Ilsink spent six years intensively and systematically studying and documenting virtually the entire oeuvre of the master Bosch worldwide using state-of-the-art technology. The close collaboration with the museums involved proved to be very conductive to the realisation of the exhibition in the Noordbrabants Museum. The long-awaited results of the BRCP constitute part of the exhibition in Den Bosch.

IDFA Documentary Jheronimus Bosch, Touched by the Devil
The documentary Jheronimus Bosch, Touched by the Devil by Pieter van Huystee, which is entirely dedicated to the BRPC and premières on November 20 at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), includes the narration of the discovery and attribution of the drawing to Hieronymus Bosch. In the documentary it is shown how the experts involved in the study came to new and sometimes surprising insights based on their research in relation to the paintings that are known as works by Hieronymus Bosch, his workshop or anonymous imitators. For example, they came to the conclusion that the famous Christ carrying the Cross in Ghent was not painted by Hieronymus Bosch himself, but by a phenomenal artist of which we unfortunately no longer know the name.

Scientific publication
To celebrate the Jheronimus Bosch – Visions of Genius exhibition, all outcomes of the research study will be published in January 2016 in the two-part BRCP monograph. This publication gives an in-depth insight into the artistry of Bosch and into such topics as authenticity and workshop practice. In addition to this oeuvre catalogue, a catalogue will also appear and a very sophisticated, yet user-friendly website will allow the public to consult and view all BRCP documentation.






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