Skip to comments.Archaeologists dig in Bosch's Garden
Posted on 09/19/2002 1:16:12 AM PDT by SteveH
Archaeologists dig in Bosch's Garden
By Norman Hammond, Archaeology correspondent
HIERONYMUS BOSCH was the first Surrealist, combining everyday images to create the phantasmagorical Garden of Earthly Delights. Archaeological work in his Dutch home town has shown how accurate those quotidian portrayals were, and how they reflect social distinctions of the time. Bosch was born around 1450, and lived in the city of sHertogenbosch the Dukes forest from which he took his name. His grandfather, father, uncles, nephews and brothers were all painters, but none attained his fame.
Recent collaboration between Hans Janssen, the citys archaeologist, and Professor Jos Koldeweij of the University of Nijmegen has identified many of the objects put to sometimes bizarre uses in Boschs paintings.
Dr Janssen has found that many of the objects shown by Bosch were commonplace, such as the skillet used to catch blood in The Hay Wain or the stoneware beakers worn as boots by one of the monstrous figures in The Garden of Earthly Delights. A late 15th-century funnel beaker found recently in a cesspit is much like that used as a home by one of the people in St Christopher.
Another find from a rubbish dump, of a knife blade stamped with the letter M, shows this to be the makers mark. Knives such as this appear in two Bosch pictures, and art historians had speculated that the M was either the signature of another painter, Jan Mandijn, or meant mundus, the world, with the knife symbolising the punishments of Hell.
Almost 700 tin badges found by Dr Janssen have images ranging from the devotional to the erotic. These, says Professor Koldeweij, use a visual vocabulary familiar to a 15th-century European audience, but not to us. They could read the use of such images, such as the pedlars basket full of phalluses hawked by a little devil in The Last Judgement, also used on a badge found by Dr Janssen, which in this case implied that the pedlar was the milkman of his time, calling on bored housewives with his wares.