Eine Welt ohne Sünde: Hieronymus Bosch als Visionär

Lead essay in the catalogue of an exhibition at the Bucerius Forum, Hamburg, 4 June-11 September 2016: Verkehrte Welt: das Jahrhundert von Hieronymus Bosch, edited by Michael Philipp

The essay argues that the Garden of Delights by Jheronimus Bosch is based on the first account of creation in the Bible. Genesis 1 speaks of the creation of man and woman simultaneously, both in the image of God. No prohibition is expressed against eating forbidden fruit; the first humans are not disobedient; there is no serpent to tempt them; they are not embarrassed by their nakedness; they are not expelled from Eden and cursed with a life of hard work and painful childbearing. This picture corresponds to the left panel of the Garden of Delights. The spectacular center panel shows what the world would have looked like had the Fall of Man not taken place, had mankind been free merely to “be fruitful and multiply.”

The hell panel is compared by the author to the 12th-century Vision of Tundale, a Dutch translation of which was published in Den Bosch in 1484. The point of both works is to frighten the reader or viewer into repenting from sin before it is too late. The message is not one of inevitable damnation, but of how to achieve salvation, as did Tundale.

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347 How a patrician made good for slighting a prince, maybe

In the splendid Antwerp specialty of kunstkamer painting, one painting and one alone migrated from one environment to another, from the patrician collection of Cornelis van der Geest to the fabled one of the archdukes of the southern Netherlands. Schwartz has an idea why. Continue reading “347 How a patrician made good for slighting a prince, maybe”

346 Bosch’s dry Haywain and his sopping wet Garden of Delights

The opposition between the parched land in Bosch’s Haywain and the unquenchable thirst of its inhabitants for dry hay is contrasted to the mouthwatering abundance of the aqueous Garden of Delights. Schwartz suggests that this supports his interpretation of the Garden as a fulfillment of God’s command to the first man and woman. Continue reading “346 Bosch’s dry Haywain and his sopping wet Garden of Delights”

343 A medical opinion from Jheronimus Bosch

Jheronimus Bosch painted a man having a flower removed from his head, with an inscription speaking of a stone being cut out. Schwartz cannot explain why, but he nonetheless proposes a new theory of what is going on in the painting. He sees more empathy in it than scorn. Continue reading “343 A medical opinion from Jheronimus Bosch”

340 Jheronimus Bosch and the Book of Nature

Key features of the art of Jheronimus Bosch are illuminated by a book published in the Netherlands in the artist’s early years. Raymond Sebond’s Natural theology, or Book of the creatures, can help us understand what God was doing with a book at the creation and why the Garden of earthly delights looks so unnatural. Continue reading “340 Jheronimus Bosch and the Book of Nature”

339 Latest Rembrandt

Rembrandt’s last dated drawing and the painting that was on his easel when he died both depict the same subject – Simeon with the Christ child in the Temple – in much the same way. In honor of the memorable exhibition Late Rembrandt Schwartz publishes some thoughts on these exceptional works.


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The Barberini and Orange inventories: a comparison of the collections and their publication

During the same years in the middle of the first half of the seventeenth century, important collections of paintings were amassed by the stadholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, Frederik Hendrik, prince of Orange (1584-1647), and Cardinal Francesco Barberini (1597-1679), the nephew of Maffeo Barberini, Pope Urban VIII. The inventories of their collections were drawn up in 1632 and 1625, respectively, offering a good basis for comparison. The article deals not only with the collections, the inventories and their publication in the twentieth century, but also with the structure of the patronage networks deployed by pope and stadholder.

The article was published in honor of Marilyn Lavin, in a festschrift offered by her friends.

Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque: a cat’s cradle for Marilyn Aronberg Lavin, ed. David A. Levine and Jack Freiberg, New York (Italica Press) 2010, pp. 167-178.

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Between court and Company: Dutch artists in Persia

During the first half of the seventeenth century, successive shahs of Persia took Dutch artists into their service. Other Dutch artists are recorded in Isfahan in other capacities. All but one – the most remarkable of them, Jan Lucasz. van Hasselt – came east with the Dutch East India Company, which had a distinctly uncomfortable feeling about having artists in its employ. All that we have left are documents and stories.

From exhib. cat. The fascination of Persia: The Persian-European dialogue in seventeenth-century art & contemporary art of Teheran, ed. Axel Langer, Zürich (Museum Rietberg) and Verlag Scheiddeger & Spiess 2013, pp. 153-167

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German edition

“Zwischen Hof und Handelsgesellschaft: Niederländische Künstler in Persien,” in Ausstellungskatalog Sehnsuch Persien: Austausch und Rezeption in der Kunst Persiens und Europas im 17. Jahrhundert * Gegenwartskunst aus Teheran, herausgegeben von Axel Langer, Zürich (Museum Rietberg) und Verlag Scheiddeger & Spiess 2013, S. 153-167

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The Sherleys and the shah: Persia as the stakes in a rogue’s game

Two brothers from an English aristocratic family that was down on its luck, Anthony and Robert Sherley, found their way in 1598 to Persia, where they entered the service of Shah ‘Abbas the Great. Their scarcely believable fortunes – both became ambassadors of the shah to the kingdoms, empire and papacy of Europe – are here reviewed, especially with attention to the prints and paintings through which they displayed their Persian status.

From exhib. cat. The fascination of Persia: The Persian-European dialogue in seventeenth-century art & contemporary art of Teheran, ed. Axel Langer, Zürich (Museum Rietberg) and Verlag Scheiddeger & Spiess 2013, pp. 78-99

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German edition

“Die Sherleys und der Schah: Persien als Spielfigur in einem Schurkengambit,” in Ausstellungskatalog Sehnsuch Persien: Austausch und Rezeption in der Kunst Persiens und Europas im 17. Jahrhundert * Gegenwartskunst aus Teheran, herausgegeben von Axel Langer, Zürich (Museum Rietberg) und Verlag Scheiddeger & Spiess 2013, S. 78-99

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337 Here’s to Vincent and Theo, Anna, Eugène and Octave

The legendary single sale of a painting by Vincent van Gogh in his lifetime is not the art market discovery it is usually taken to be. It has a rich and moving background involving a cast of admirable characters, not least of them Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, who in Brussels challenged a vilifier of van Gogh to a duel. Continue reading “337 Here’s to Vincent and Theo, Anna, Eugène and Octave”