Hieronymus Bosch (ca. 1450-1516) painted The Garden of Earthly Delights, which is reproduced in its entirety in the BOSCH deck of cards. Bosch was one of the most fascinating painters among the masters of the late Middle Ages. To this day, he’s renowned for the strange and wonderful body of work he created.
There’s more speculation about the life of Hieronymus Bosch than there are known facts. We know he was born around the year 1450 in the town of Hertogenbosch, in the Duchy of Brabant (in The Netherlands). Bosch lived and worked there all his life.
Bosch’s fantastic world of symbology and satirical allusion, with its depictions of devils and other fabulous and frightening creatures, continues to capture our curiosity and challenge our imagination. Although his originality kept him from being considered conventional within his time, Bosch worked within certain artistic traditions of his era. He was frequently employed by houses of nobility, such as the Spanish court, which still owns tapestries created from Bosch drawings.
Bosch’s art focused on two themes: religion and secular moralising. When his religious scenes also contain a moral warning, the religious and the secular can be seen to intersect. Bosch created fantastic landscapes and visions of fear unlike any other painter before or since. Using satire and irony, he showed humanity from both its positive and (more frequently) negative sides. Bosch understood and saw through the wickedness of the world. Indeed, in contrast to it he presented the figure of the hermit, who retreats from a virtueless world, and the lives and sufferings of Jesus and the saints.
Bosch’s work continues to captivate artists and art lovers. His themes are timeless and the magnetism of his vision is universal. Each new generation experiences it in its own way. As was said in connection with a Bosch exhibit in Rotterdam, “Bosch’s paintings are to be contemplated – but also read.”
Like his paintings, Bosch’s life is a mystery. He died in 1516.