Prado 200

img-interiors-museo-pradoOn 19 November 1819 Ferdinand VII of Spain inaugurated the Museo Real de Pinturas. Two centuries later the present-day Museo Nacional del Prado is commemorating its Bicentenary.


Francisco Goya Portrait of Ferdinand VII of Spain in his robes of state (1815). Museo del Prado

The Prado Museum Art Collections

The works housed at the Prado Museum (link to the collection) are displayed on three floors, and illustrate the history of the cultural politics of the Spanish court.
Therefore, there are paintings by court painters and great artists of the past, such as the Venetian painter Titian,who was the official portrait painter of Charles V, who loved the Flemish painters, as well.

titian. diane receiving the golden rain

Titian. Danae Receiving the Golden Rain. 1553. Museo del Prado

We owe to Philip II, instead, the world’s greatest collection of paintings by Hieronymus Bosch; whereas Philip IVallowed Velazquez to express himself to the best of his talent, and bought works of the Italian Renaissance for this art collection.


Hieronymus Bosch. Fantasía moral (Visio tondali). Museo del Madrid

Thanks to Philip V paintings by French painters enriched the collection; whereas the court of Charles IV was dominated by the personality of Francisco Goya, on display at the Prado Museum with almost 130 works.


Francisco Goya. The Clothed Maja. Museo del Prado

A large section of the Prado Museum is characterized by religious paintings, not only because the Church has played a dominant role in Spain over centuries, but also because in 1872 paintings coming from the collection of the Museo de la Trinidad, full of medieval works coming from all over Spain and painted by artists who hadn’t work for the sovereigns, entered the museum.
That’s why you’ll find works by El Greco, who worked especially in Toledo.

As for Spanish, Flemish and Dutch art you can’t miss: The Triumph of Death by BrueghelArtemis by Rembrandt; the three paintings of mythological subject by Rubens (Perseus and Andromeda; The judgement of Paris; The three Graces)Las Meninas by Velazquez. (The Art Post Blog).


Bosch 500

bosch7 Hieronymus Bosch, who is also called Jeroen Bosch, lived in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (also  known as Den Bosch) from 1450 to 1516.bosch4 In 2016, 500 years after Hieronymus Bosch died, the Art Center will organize a range of special exhibitions and activities. The entire town has become a virtual museum. Bosch is everywhere…

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Interesting that in the painter’s native town no original paintings of the master remains. Not a single item. Thus it looked like an impossible dream that this provincial Dutch city will be able to collect enough items for the anniversary exhibition. However, from February 13 to May 8 of this year, 20 paintings and 19 drawings by Bosch arrived from Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Holland and the USA.

From Paris (Louvre) came Ship of Fools.fools.jpg  Death and the Miser  arrived from Washington.Hieronymus_Bosch_-_Death_and_the_Miser_-_Google_Art_ProjectThe Haywain Triptich (The Hay Wagon) left Spain (Prado) for the first time in 500 years.bosch_hieronymus-the_haywain_triptych In spite of fears that the “non-touristic” ‘s-Hertogenbosch will not attract visitors, the exhibition tickets were sold in the first two weeks.

There is a deep symbolism in the fact that after five centuries after Bosch’s death his art came back to the city where it was created. Nearly everything that is known about the life of Hieronymus Bosch is closely linked to ‘s-Hertogenbosch, his hometown. Here, around 1450, Jeroen van Aken was born in a family of painters. Here, at the age of thirty, he got married and lived in ‘s-Hertogenbosch all his comfortable, filled with creativity life.

There is a mystery about Hieronymus Bosch: How could a little-traveled provincial painter, who lived away from the major art centers and never made any long journeys, so acutely feel the nerve of his era? Where have he picked up a truly comprehensive knowledge that makes his paintings an encyclopedia of the 15th century life: science, medicine, alchemy, architecture, military, craft, shipbuilding, folklore, music, fashion, flora and fauna? In search of answers, we again return to ‘ city center, although 500 years passed since the master’s death, still remains timelessly unchanged. Bosch, should he’d miraculously reappeared on one of the side streets, would’ve been able to find the way to his father’s house on the market square and its own workshop nearby, without much difficulty. Just as 500 years ago, on market days, the square is overflowing with flowers, cheeses and fish, the water is gurgling in the medieval fountain, and the bells of the cathedral toll by the hour.

One of the major attractions is the Gothic St. John’s Cathedral, one of the finest Gothic churches of the Netherlands. janDuring the life of Bosch the cathedral was nearly completed. 16 exterior arches — double flying buttresses — are decorated with 96 stone sculptures, wonderfully alive, truly “boschian.”  jan3Artisans, musicians, fantastic beasts and birds… Bosch must have seen them, remembered from childhood, flying buttresses of the cathedral with their riders — like the bridge from ‘s-Hertogenbosch to the creativity of her famous native.

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From ‘s-Hertogenbosch Bosch exhibition will travel to Madrid, the Prado Museum. The Prado’s  Bosch exhibit will show off virtually all the paintings and graphics of the master.

Visit The Garden of Earthly Delights

bosch.PNGHieronymus Bosch, born Jheronimus van Aken (c. 1450 – 9 August 1516) arguably had the wildest, most fantastical imagination in art history — painting our deepest fears, our deepest desires. This August the art world will mark 500 years since his death. “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” is widely recognized as his best known surviving

The dimensions of the triptych is quite impressive — 7′ 3″ x 12′ 9″. It was created in  1503–1515, on display at Museo Nacional Del Prado. Seeing it “live”  is a treat to any art lover, but only a few could afford to spend hours on end to take in every detail of the masterpiece. 
That is what I’ve done just now — an hour and a half of “earthly delight” with the painting, not leaving my desk, making screen shots. 

bosch1bosch5 All thanks to the interactive documentary Jheronimus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights —an in-depth tour though The Garden. bosch2 It’s a web interface, a transmedia tryptich, where the visitor is taken on an audio-visual journey, including sound, music, video and images to enrich the storytelling.bosch6The transmedia tryptich consists of the documentary film ‘Hieronymus Bosch, touched by the devil’, the interactive documentary ‘Hieronymus Bosch: Garden of Earthly Delights’ and the Virtual Reality documentary ‘Hieronymus Bosch, the Eyes of the Owl’.boschIf you haven’t been there already, take a tour. It’s a truly unique experience.Whether you like Bosch or not, it’ll be worth your while. Follow the link to The Garden. You’ll be delighted.bosch4




Matthias Grünewald(1470 — 1528)

When the remains of the Domus Aurea (Golden House) of the ancient emperor Nero were discovered under the Esquiline hill in Rome, artists including Raphael lowered themselves down on ropes into its subterranean painted galleries. The Renaissance frescoes this opulent palace inspired – all fantastical foliage, masks and satyrs – was called “grotesque” from grotto (cave) because the underground corridors were like caverns.

The strange ornamental designs that were found there ‘featured elaborate fantasies with symmetrical anatomical impossibilities, small beasts, stylised human heads, and delicately-traced, indeterminate foliage all merged into one unified decorative whole.’ Pliny, in his Natural History, recorded the principal artist’s name: Fabullus; recounting how the painter went ‘for only a few hours each day to the “Golden House” to work while the light was right…

By the turn of the sixteenth century, some artists had begun to incorporate elements of grotesque decoration into their own, contemporary works.


Perugino’s ceiling of the Cambio in Perugia (about 1500)

Grotesques of Palazzo Vecchio:

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Arent van Bolten (1573-1633):

Arent van Bolten(1573-1633).

Arent van Bolten(1573-1633).

Heinrich Aldegrever (1501-1502 – 1555-61)Heinrich Aldegrever (1501-1502 - 1555-61) Ornament

Joris  Hoefnagel (1542 — 1601):

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Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s famous paintings of ‘composed heads’ date from the late 1560s.


Winter from Arcimboldo’s seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn)

Daniel Heumann (1720-174):Daniel Heumann-1720-1740

Francis Bacon  (1909 — 1952) engaged in what he called a “pitiless analysis” of his subjects, objectifying them in order to find new methods of description. Nonetheless, any meaning in the work was always tied to his search for a beauty within formalism. In this way his images of violence and death were never politicized. He was no Picasso or Goya. Instead, they were existential.

It didn’t matter much to him if people liked his work anyway. If they didn’t, he knew he was doing something right. (From How Creatives Work)

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Some call him 20th century Bosch. But Bacon wasn’t Bosch either.

Hieronymus Bosch was a moralist and didn’t believe in showing things as they appeared. His fantastical imagery earned him the nickname ‘the creator of devils’. Grotesque devils that is.Bosch

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Michael Hutter makes (and generously shares) his re-imagining of searing Bosch-like art. Yet another non-Bosch. And non-Bruegel, and non-Grunewald.

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And then there is Jonathan Payne  and his Fleshlettes — utterly disgusting creations made of materials like super sculpey, polymer clay, acrylic, and… human hair:

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[…] images like Payne’s come from a place “underground”, from an ugly malformed part of the imagination. The grotesque in modern art was heightened by the real-life horrors of the first world war. It is at the heart of dada and surrealism. The most grotesque images in 20th-century art include Picasso’s bullfights, Dali’s self-cannibalising creatures, Hans Bellmer’s mutilated dolls, and Francis Bacon’s tragic anatomies.

… The horrors that painters saw 500 years ago are just as disconcerting as anything today’s artists create. When we look into the dark, the monsters are always the same. (The Guardian. Shock horror: why art’s so obsessed with the grotesque.)

March Of Folly In Art


Print made by William Dickinson after Robert Edge Pine (1775)

Madness. A straw and a scarf in tangled hair, a rope holding a pelt around her, leaving the breast bare, clutching at the chains that restrain her, twisting to the left and staring wildly at something that only she can see and fear.

Hieronymus BOSCH, The Cure of Folly (Extraction of the Stone of Madness) 1475-80

Hieronymus BOSCH,
The Cure of Folly. Extraction of the Stone of Madness. (1475-80)

Madness. The Stone of Madness lodged in the head of a poor fellow. There is a cure, however. With the help of Out Lord and a simple implement, the attempt is made to pluck the Stone of Madness out of the head of a madman. A painting of the procedure was completed between 1475 and 1480 by the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch.

Cutting out the Stone of Madness, by Pieter Bruegel

Cutting out the Stone of Madness, by Pieter Bruegel

A curious belief held by some in the Middle Ages was that madness was caused by a “stone of madness” situated anywhere in the body, but most commonly in the head. It was believed that the stone could be removed by surgery; many quack healers roamed Europe performing sham operations on the mentally ill,  removing the stone”, and affecting a cure, which, more often that not, was very short-lived.

Excising the Stone of Folly by Pieter Huys

Excising the Stone of Folly by Pieter Huys

BRUEGEL, Pieter the Elder Dulle Griet (Mad Meg) c. 1562

BRUEGEL, Pieter the Elder
Dulle Griet (Mad Meg) c. 1562

Amidst a fantastically bizarre setting, Mad Meg is both pitiful and pitiless, driven by a colossal mess that darkened her mind and her senses.

Attributed to Renold Elstrack (1607)

Attributed to Renold Elstrack (1607)

While maskinge in their folleis all doe passe, though all say nay yet all doe ride the asse.

Madness of life, the world and people. Satire on the folly of the world: a group of men and a courtesan vie to ride the ass of folly which is led by a beggar who fails to persuade a judge to take part; a fool holds the ass by the tail.

Print made by Michel Honoré Bounieu (1785)

Print made by Michel Honoré Bounieu (1785)

Madness inspires fear. Fear is an overpowering force, thus people are paying their homage to Madness. A woman, carrying a fool’s bauble and leading blindfolded Cupid by the hand is Madness personified, while people on the background bow in awe.

The Tree of Folly growing in the centre, between four rows with scenes that exemplify folly, each with its explanatory text Etching Attributed to Ambrogio Brambilla  (1575-1590)

The Tree of Folly growing in the centre, between four rows with scenes that exemplify folly, each with its explanatory text. Etching. Attributed to Ambrogio Brambilla (1575-1590)

Francisco Goya  Yard with Lunatics (1794)

Francisco Goya
Yard with Lunatics (1794)

Goya wrote that the Yard with lunatics shows a scene in the asylum in Zaragoza, “a yard with lunatics, and two of them fighting completely naked while their warder beats them, and others in sacks.” It has been described as a “somber vision of human bodies without human reason” and as one of Goya’s “deeply disturbing visions of sadism and suffering.”

With this painting, the direction of Goya’s art and career drastically changes, moving from “a world in which there are no shadows to one in which there is no light”.

The painting had been absent from public view since a private sale in 1922.madness1

Little Butt Music From Hell

boschHieronymus Bosch, (appr. 1450 — 1516) an Early Netherlandish painter, in various accounts was “the inventor of monsters and chimeras”  and his works as comprising “wondrous and strange fantasies often less pleasant than gruesome to look at.” It was believed that Bosch’s art was inspired by medieval heresies and obscure hermetic practices.

These days, however, Bosch often seen as a prototype medieval surrealist, and compared to Salvador Dali. That is why I love them both.

The Garden of Earthly Delights is one of Bosch’s most famous works. It is a triptych with Adam and Eve in paradise on the left panel.

The triptych’s central panel is either (a) a fair warning that such unabashed debauchery won’t do you any good or (b) a dreamy delight in earthly pleasures of paradise lost — a wishful thinking.

Wikipedia article quotes American writer Peter S. Beagle who sees it as an “erotic derangement that turns us all into voyeurs, a place filled with the intoxicating air of perfect liberty”.  Disagree about “us, voyeurs”. It’s either “him, voyeur” or “them, voyeurs” — I respectfully abstain from being included. Perfect liberty? Perhaps. Be it thus.


The Garden of Earthly Delights, Oil-on-wood panels, 220 x 389 cm, Museo del Prado in Madrid

To be fully appreciated, The Garden of Earthly Delights certainly needs to be viewed on large scale. Much larger than this:


Central Panel

Let’s disregard “erotic derangement” of the center panel, with it’s  “broad panorama of socially engaged nude figures” and turn our attention to Hell — the right panel. It depicts the torments of damnation, vestiges of god-awful hellscape.

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Fascinating as All Hell might be, the subject of this post is but a  small detail of the panel.

Fragment of Hieronymus Bosch’s painting The Garden of Earthly Delights

Fragment of Hieronymus Bosch’s painting The Garden of Earthly Delights

One the torments, offered a la carte in Bosch’s hell, is torture by music. Anyone whose senses were subjected to the offensive sounds of music one strongly despised, could attest to experiencing hell, Hell or HELL.

It seems that no one was paying close attention to the music, written on the damned rascal’s bottom, until recently. Here is how the butt music from Bosch’s Hell sounds:

And below is a video clip — widely available on YouTube but little heard — of the “hellish” melody’s musical arrangement .  Sounds a bit “new-agey” to my taste. The triptych, let’s be reminded,  is dating from between 1490 and 1510. Something old, something new… music from hell, Hell or HELL?

Vice In Advice And Farce In Ars

There are many humorous — and serious too! — advice as to how to fake art appreciation and get ahead in a company of snobs who might snub you if you are a dunce.

Such as Adopt THE stance. Stand back a distance from the piece of art, purse your lips as if in deep thought, and say, “I find this piece entirely derivative/jejune/neo-Slavic.” is pretty blunt in its helpfulness: 

Tired of feeling stupid when the conversation turns to art? Here are some easy ways to impress art snobs without the tedium of actually learning anything.

That’s what it says, without the tedium of actually learning anything.  Because it might damage your brain if you’d try to subject it to such tedium, you know.

So, if in fear of learning, don’t read further, because there is a remote possibility you might learn something… You know how the knowledge can sneak upon you when you are not careful.

Michelangelo Merisi (Amerigo) Da Caravaggio (1571 – 1610 ) was an Italian artist, active in Rome, Naples, Malta and Sicily between 1593 and 1610.

Caravaggio’s paintings, especially portraits, often depict young men in various stages of undress, either adorned, surrounded or both with luscious organic fruit and vegetation, making cow eyes at you. Most of them look like adult maidens of the age of consent.

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There is, however, quite famous image of a woman by Caravaggio’s talented brush. She looks more masculine than feminine, her full name is Medusa Gorgon (no middle name), and she resembles — am I imagining it? — Johnny Depp. Take a look:
And here is Johnny:

El Greco, born Doménikos Theotokópoulos, (1541 – 1614) was a painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. His paintings often have sharp contrasts and lots of skinny bearded faces. Most of them bearded faces are either vividly blue or somewhat bluish, hinting on high odds of them turning purple… or green:

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Lots of boisterous little people in the picture, all making broad, emphatic gestures, mostly in village setting – this  must be Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca. 1525/30–1569). As a connoisseur of the Flemmish art and Bruegel in particular, you might say, “Notice, that far from simple recreations of everyday life, Bruegel’s paintings have powerful compositions that are brilliantly organized and controlled, reflecting a sophisticated artistic design.”

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Lots of boisterous little people in the picture, often naked, all making broad, emphatic gestures, mostly defensive ones, and lots of ugly, repugnant creepy-crawlies – this must be Hieronymus Bosch. (1450 – 1516). As a connoisseur of Early Netherlandish masters, you might say, “God knows, I don’t believe in Hell, not really. But I’m sure Master Bosch made a few trips there and back.” Modify the sentence to closely adhere to your own spiritual leanings.

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And, finally, if nearly every painting has at least one face that is marked by uncanny resemblance to a newly single Russian President Vladimir Putin, then it is Jan van Eyck (or Johannes de Eyck) (before c. 1390 – before c. 1441), a Flemish painter active in Bruges and is generally considered one of the most significant Northern European painters of the 15th century.

Take a look. Here they are, Jan van Eyck’s people.

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And here is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

For each man or woman  Jan Van Eyck put in, there  is at least one Putin. Not very masterful a phrase, but simply couldn't resist

For each man or woman Jan Van Eyck put in, there is at least one Putin. Not very masterful a phrase, but simply couldn’t resist

While we are at it, I could’ve given you a few suggestions on how to distinguish mature Jackson Pollock from the canvas produced by a 5 year old with access to cans of spray paint in primary colors, but I won’t. There are others that can do it much better.  Anyone, actually, who had a brief but unforgettable period of heavy drug use but beat the habit and turned out to be a great dad who gives his kiddies an unlimited access to cans of  spray paints. Pollock can be found in my post Contemplation of Art Appreciation. You might find a painting to compare to Pollock’s affixed to your fridge with a magnet – a gift from a child or a grandchild. Heck, if not then DIY! You can do it.

I know I shouldn’t have. Ah, well…