In anticipation of the opening of a traveling Hieronymus Bosch exhibition timed to the 500th anniversary of his death, a new work is being attributed to the painter by the Bosch Research and Conservation Project:
A worldwide study undertaken by the Bosch Research and Conservation Project (BRCP) has shown that The Temptation of St. Anthony from The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, should be attributed to Hieronymus Bosch himself. The painting was acquired in the 1930s and kept in storage for decades because it was classified as the work of a pupil or follower of Bosch. The new attribution is a significant addition to the small body of existent work produced by Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450–’s-Hertogenbosch 1516).
The newly discovered work, which dates from around 1500–10, will be shown to the public for the first time at the large-scale Hieronymus Bosch: Visions of Genius exhibition opening at Het Noordbrabants Museum on 13 February 2016 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Bosch’s death.
Although the image was heavily retouched and overpainted during a twentieth-century restoration, Bosch’s hand is still clearly recognizable in the original brushwork. If we look beyond these later additions, it is clear how closely this St. Anthony scene is related to the left wing in particular of the Hermit Saints Triptych in the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, which is likewise included in the exhibition in Den Bosch. The BRCP’s research team also used infrared photography and infrared reflectography to reveal underdrawings that perfectly match what has been found in other panels from Hieronymus Bosch’s core oeuvre. A fairly thick brush and a watery medium were used in a general and exploratory way to set down how the image would appear on the panel. A similarly exploratory approach is found beneath the paint layer in virtually all Hieronymus Bosch’s other works. What’s more, there as here, he continued to adjust the image while actually painting. Bosch also regularly worked with different colours in the still wet paint, as we find in the head and the wing of the flying fish that has crawled onto the land in this St. Anthony scene. It was this way of working that enabled him to achieve his characteristic painterly effect.
Every detail of the image of St. Anthony – kneeling and scooping up water in a setting that teems with bizarre creatures – fits seamlessly into Bosch’s wider oeuvre. The figure of the saint closely matches that of Anthony in the left wing of the Hermit Saints Triptych and is also related to the water-scooping female figure in the central panel of the Last Judgement in Bruges. The little monsters in the panel are typically ‘Bosschian’: the little creature hiding beneath a funnel, the monster with the fox’s head, the little figure with the spoonbill’s beak, the pig’s trotter lying on the floating tabletop, the toad clambering out of the water and the floating sausage are found in other works by Bosch too.