The visions of Hieronymus Bosch are centre stage in landmark exhibition

The visions of Hieronymus Bosch are centre stage in landmark exhibition

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516) whose bizarre creatures struck awe and admiration into the hearts of his contemporaries and continue to do so today. Here are ten facts about this extraordinary painter whose work will be on show in a landmark exhibition at the Noordbrabants Museum from February 13 to May 8.1 What is his real name? Jheronimus/ Hieronymus/Joen/Jeroen van Aken, as he is variously called, hailed from the city of Den Bosch in the province of Noord-Brabant. In 1488 Jeroen van Aken began signing his work using the name of his native city and became Jheronimus Bosch.It is said that this was actually a clever marketing ploy: Bosch wanted his patrons to know where to find him (and presumably not go looking for him in Aken (Aachen), Germany, where the family originally came from). Bosch did indeed live in Den Bosch all his life and died there in 1516. The 500th anniversary of his death is the reason the Noordbrabants Museum is mounting this unique exhibition.2 Bosch was in demand in his lifetime Born into a family of painters, Bosch was unlikely to turn to another profession. Fortunately he was extremely talented, and very successful during his lifetime. His outlandish iconography, so different from what was on offer from his contemporaries, far from repelling his wealthy clientele actually drew their admiration and Bosch paintings were in great demand. Aristocratic patrons included Philip the Handsome, Duke of Burgundy and Brabant and Henry III of Nassau.3 Where did the images come from? So how can someone who stepped outside his house to walk the short distance to his studio every day come up with such hallucinatory images? Man-machines and monsters engage in such bewildering activities that ‘a lively imagination’ just doesn’t seem to cover it. And yet that is all we are left with, although some hold that Bosch’s visions sprang from eating mouldy rye bread.Bosch’s depiction of cities on fire is said to spring from his witnessing a great fire in Den Bosch in 1463 – 4,000 houses were burned to the ground - as a child but even that is unproven. In fact, very little is known of his life at all.4 Was Bosch a heretic? What is certain is that subsequent arbiters of taste did not quite know what to make of Bosch and his images. In 17th century Spain he was branded a heretic for his ‘devilry’ while the psychoanalytic movement of the 1930s had him down as a loony obsessed with guilt and sin (Bosch was a Roman Catholic).Others thought he must have been a member of the Brethren of Free Spirit, a sect trying to create a new garden of Eden mainly by means of unbridled sex. Later Salvador Dali and his fellow surrealists hailed him as a kindred spirit.5 Symbolism Much in the paintings continues to defy interpretation but here’s what Stanley Meisler of the Smithsonian says about some of the symbols in Bosch’s work: ‘Although scholars don’t always agree on interpretations, this sampler suggests possible meanings for some symbols found in the paintings: pig: false priest; gluttony, fruit: carnal pleasure, rat: lies against the church; filth; sex, fish: false prophets; lewdness, closed book: futility of knowledge in dealing with human stupidity; flames: ergotism; fires of hell, flying monsters: hallucination of ergotism sufferers; devil’s envoys, keys: knowledge, lute and harp: instruments for praise of god and pursuit of love; breasts: fertility, mussel shell: infidelity, black birds: unbelievers; death or rotting flesh, knives: punishment of evil, rabbits: multiplication of the race, egg: sexual creation, key symbol of alchemy, ice skater: folly, funnel: deceit and intemperance; false alchemist or false doctor, strawberry: fleeting joys of life, love, owl: great learning, ears: gossip, spheres: alchemical apparatus.’6 How many Bosch works are there? How many works Bosch painted is unknown. A number of them perished; 24 have now been attributed to him with any certainty. Copies abounded, made to look conveniently older and authentic by exposing them to smoke, according to disgruntled art collector Felipe de Guevara who owned no fewer than 6 ‘El Boscos’. 7 Analysis and restoration The Bosch Research and Conservation Project  has been busily analysing and restoring Bosch’s work for the last five years. This has led to new insights and a ‘new’ painting was added to the oeuvre, no doubt to the delight of present owner - the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas, Missouri. This tiny rendering of the Temptation of St Anthony was previously attributed to one of his apprentices.8 Persuasion Intrepid museum boss Charles de Mooij has managed to persuade museums all over the world to part with 20 of Bosch’s 25 surviving paintings, using participation in the prestigious project as his lure. Not included is his famous Garden of Earthly Delights (painted between 1480 and 1505) which was considered too fragile to travel. The Prado was kind enough to send the Haywain (1516), however, which is leaving Madrid for the first time in 450 years!.9 Marketing Like many other painters Bosch has spawned a sea of tat, but tat, it seems, mainly targeting the young: Garden of Earthly Delight Doc Martens, leggings and skateboards, for instance. For the present craze for colouring books there is even a Garden of Earthly Delight colouring book for hours of colouring fun.10 His Year 2016 is Hieronymus Bosch year. Apart from the exhibition, Den Bosch will be the scene of artistic interpretations of the painter’s work in theatre, dance and film.   More >

'Engineering is ingrained in the Dutch'

‘I think the spirit of engineering is ingrained in the Dutch psyche’ Finnish-Canadian Timo Mashiyi-Veikkola (47) came to the Netherlands with his South African husband Ossie four years ago. The couple have been running a pop-up restaurant – Bulelani BBQ - for the last 18 months and are now looking to crowdfund a permanent location in Amsterdam. A fan of Dutch design and Dutch haring, Timo feels at home and comfortable here.How did you end up in the Netherlands? In 2011 Ossie and I had just gotten married in South Africa. I was working successfully as a consultant in London, but we wanted a change of scenery and an opportunity to relocate. When I was offered a job here we took that opportunity and moved. Ossie looked for work in hospitality but wanted his own business, and the Netherlands has always provided entrepreneurs with a good platform to succeed.How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? Identity is always a good question, and it’s something I come across frequently as an anthropologist. I don’t...  More >

Syrians need bread, not bombs

Syrians need bread, not bombs, say Dutch socialist MPs Emile Roemer, the Socialist Party's leader and its foreign affairs spokesman MP Harry van Bommel are highly criticial of the Labour party's U-turn on bombing Syria.The PvdA no longer opposes air strikes by Dutch F-16s on IS targets in Syria. It’s a curious decision since the arguments against such an intervention raised earlier by the party remain the same. The civil war in Syria has killed over 260,000 people and ten million people have been forced to leave the country.Although understandable from a humanitarian point of view, lessons need to be learned from earlier interventions. That is why the SP was happy the PvdA refused to support the strikes. Party leader Diederik Samsom rightly said that what is needed first and foremost is a political plan for the future of Syria. No such plan is forthcoming and the warring parties are still quarrelling about who should take part in the negotiations.Benefit to AssadLabour also argued that air strikes could benefit Assad, who...  More >

Students help refugee artists find a voice

Dutch students help refugee artists find an online voice A project by Utrecht art school students has become a platform for artists who have come to the Netherlands as refugees to tell their stories.By Tracy Brown HamiltonMahmod Kharrat, 22, is a professional photographer who specialised in portrait photography in his native Damascus. He has lived in the Netherlands for four months, and while he has found himself labelled as a ‘refugee,’ he identifies himself first and foremost with his art form.‘I am a photographer; I always have been,’ he says. ‘It’s my job, and it makes me feel free.’His haunting black-and-white portraits - mostly taken during his time in Syria - appear on a newly launched website that features the artwork and writing of refugees.UtrechtThe Publisher, as the website is called, is the creation of six students at HKU University of the Arts Utrecht.The students - Sacha Schemkes, Sophie Roumans, Sophie Dogterom, Welmoed Terpstra, Mirthe Vos and Jöran Zeeuw - made the decision to create...  More >

Having a baby in Holland? Nine tips

Nine things you need to know about having a baby in the Netherlands The Netherlands is notorious for its painkiller-free home births. But there are lots of other essential things you need to know to make sure you have a baby the Dutch way. The Netherlands by Numbers has a useful list.The home birth We’ll get this out of the way first. You can have your baby in a hospital. A generation ago, 60% of the Dutch were born at home but that has now dropped to around 20%. There are all sorts of reasons for this – complicated calculations about perinatal death rates, local hospital closures, changing fashions – but we like to think having the option of pain relief might also play a role. The Dutch think pain is part of the process, which it is, but it is also a part which many of us would like to be able to avoid.The placenta This is one thing nobody tells you about a home birth. What happens to the placenta? If you are a bit of an earth mother you can always eat it, but if you are not, the midwife will present it to you in a plastic bag to...  More >

'I’m a fairweather cyclist'

‘I’m a fair weather cyclist – if it’s raining we take the car’ Australian Rebecca Overmars has been in the Netherlands for two years, has three children and runs her own maternity nurse practice. A fan of  flip-flops, she has learned to appreciate Dutch beaches, even in winter, and likes waving back when angry cyclists shout 'hallo'.How did you end up in the Netherlands? My husband and I were both born in Australia, me into an Aussie-British family and him into an Aussie-Dutch family. In 2009 we left Australia to live in Andorra, which is a tiny little country in the Pyrenees mountains. It was during our time living there that I first travelled to Amsterdam, and returned home declaring that I wanted to move there! We visited a couple of times a year and fell in love with Haarlem, as a less touristy version of Amsterdam. So when it was time to leave Andorra there was no question as to where we would come!How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I think others would see us as expats but I don’t...  More >

Drugs: harm reduction, not repression

Tackling drugs requires harm reduction, not repression In April, the United Nations is meeting to discuss the worldwide policy on drugs. Junior health minister Martin van Rijn must be urged to forge a different approach, write Dutch MPs Vera Bergkamp (D66) and Marith Volp (Labour).A war on drugs is no longer compatible with modern times. Big words and repression should be replaced with measures focusing on limiting health risks. Prevention, information and care are the areas international drug policy should be concentrating on. Now that the Netherlands holds the presidency of the EU and junior health minister Martin van Rijn will soon attend a special meeting of the United nations, it is time to promote a different approach to drugs.In April this year the United Nations is organising the third United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the world drug problem. During this meeting countries will discuss the measures included in the worldwide policy on drugs. In 1998 the meeting agreed on a roadmap to eliminate drugs:...  More >

10 key tips for celebrating Carnaval

It’s party time south of the rivers: get ready for Carnaval Soon the south of the Netherlands will be plunged into the mayhem that is Carnaval, the feast that traditionally preceded the big fast at Lent. Here’s what you need to know should you decide to spend a couple of jolly days onder de grote rivieren (south of the big rivers) or any of the other, mainly Catholic, regions in the Netherlands where Carnaval is king.1 Carnaval is a moveable feast. This year the festivities will kick off on February 7 and end two days later, on February 9 - the day before Ash Wednesday. Preparations start on the 11th of the 11th, at 11:11 - 11 being the fool’s number in the Netherlands.2 If you plan to go off and celebrate, there is no use consulting your NS train schedule because the names of many towns change for the period. Den Bosch becomes Oeteldonk; Bergen op Zoom Krabbegat and Tilburg Kruikenstad. The northern cities are making an effort to join in the fun but calling Den Haag Kreesiedentie seems a tad contrived.3 Amsterdam deserves a separate...  More >

10 Great Things To Do In February

10 Great Things To Do In February From the latest film from the Coen brothers and a major celebration of Karel Appel to all the latest designs and gadgets for your home, here's our pick of the best things to do in February.Celebrate a modern masterKarel Appel (1921-2006) is perhaps the most renowned Dutch artist of the latter half of the twentieth century and this major retrospective marks the tenth anniversary of his death. The 67 paintings, 12 sculptures and more than 60 drawings in the exhibition demonstrate that Appel was more than just a member of the Cobra movement. The show also revisits his early interest in Outsider Art, his wide-ranging stylistic experiments, and his highly individual – sometimes almost abstract – interpretation of traditional genres like the nude, the portrait and the urban or rural landscape.The exhibition is part of a wider international reappraisal of Karel Appel’s work during this anniversary year which also includes exhibitions in Paris, London and Washington.Gemeentemuseum,...  More >

Dutch start-up develops medical chat tool

Dutch start-up develops secure instant messaging for doctors A Dutch tech start-up is looking to hit it big with a doctors-only communications app which, it says, combines the benefits of Linkedin and Whatsapp in one secure instant messaging aims to connect millions of healthcare professionals worldwide so they can share information in a private and secure environment, without worrying whether it is being viewed by others or even used for commercial purposes.The idea for a secure communication platform for doctors came from Dutch vascular surgeon Hans Flu, who realised that existing tools had too many constraints and major security issues.Privacy‘Doctors should be able to use communication platforms such as LinkedIn or Whatsapp in their professional lives, but unfortunately that is not really the case,’ says Flu.‘These communication tools are not developed for doctors and as such do not offer the specific features that doctors need. The second problem is privacy. Existing communication tools are not secure...  More >

'I'm no longer as materialistic as I was'

‘After 22 years here, I’m no longer as materialistic as I used to be’ Londoner Billy Allwood is the founder of website The Hague Online and organiser of the Feel at Home in The Hague fair, which celebrates its 10th edition on Sunday. Posted here 22 years ago, Billy has now abandoned suits, would like to meet Frank Rijkaard and says the North Sea is too cold to swim in.How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came to the Netherlands in 1994 when the Brazilian mining company I worked for relocated its headquarters from London. I worked in their strategy department and  when the company was taken over, we were let go. I decided to stay on and started a financial software company. In 2004, when I had been in the Netherlands for 10 years, I launched The Hague Online. I realised there was not enough information out there in English about daily life in The Hague. So that is what I decided to provide.How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I'm an international person living in an international city. I don't...  More >