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Hieronymus Bosch: Garden of Earthly Delights Paperback – May 15, 2016
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About the Author
HANS BELTING is an internationally renowned art historian and an expert on Netherlandish art. The author of numerous works on art theory and twentiethcentury art, he lives in Karlsruhe, Germany.
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The day I ordered this book, there just happened to be a story on CNN that night, talking about a new 'discovery' in the Garden of Earthly Delights painting. Apparently, a group of college kids were sitting around, pondering the piece---probably a poster---when one of them noticed musical notes across the nude buttocks of one of the men in the painting. She wrote down the notes, put it to music, and the art world was amazed that she cued into this little nugget that no one else had seen or thought of.
I first saw this painting at the Prado in Madrid. I had never heard of it, but I struggled to get a glimpse, as there were hoards of people surrounding it. I couldn't really take it all in, and it wasn't until last year---when we went back to Spain---that I saw it up-close and uninterrupted. Sadly, tourism was down in Spain last year, but it meant we could get close to a lot of popular paintings without obstruction, this being one of them.
I love this book. It always fascinates me when a whole book can be written about one piece of art. I mean, really, how many examples are there (e.g., Mona Lisa, Guernica, Las Meninas, Girl with a Pearl Earring, American Gothic ...). This book is compact----only 125 pages---but the author put a lot into it. The reproductions are great! You can even see the crackling of the paint.
The book is part detective story, part history, and part analysis. The author tells us what we know about Hieronymus Bosch, but a lot of the story is trying to piece things together, looking for clues and trying to find what makes the most sense. I won't tell you about the general findings, but it's a fascinating piece of work. At the end, the book comes full circle, reminding us about what we do and don't know about this artist and this painting.
Especially if you don't know a lot about art, this book gives you somewhat of a framework for how to think about the interplay between the artist, the canvas, and the dominant themes of a culture at any given time.
Anyhow, the book is a gem. Especially if you've seen the painting, you have to read this book, as it ties things together in a way I've never seen before.
So if you are an artist or color enthusiast this is essential.
Some of these same photos are also used in this poster "book" by the same publisher: ( # ISBN-10: 3791330705 & # ISBN-13: 978-3791330709, with a detachable poster of the painting, 24 pages, 16.3 x 9.2 x 0.3 inches).
...This book does not show all of his paintings. It is focused on the one in the title "Garden Of Earthly Delights".
...The theory is interesting.
The first 90-odd pages deals with a reasonable hypothesis concerning Bosch's quintessential triptych. There is no proof that can be given to this as versus any other. Still, it gives an approach to understanding this unique work, if not perhaps what Bosch (Jheronimus Achtinonen von Aken) had in mind.
There is a second part of 28 pages that deals with contemporaneous exploration that perhaps touches on fantastical creatures as well as on current beliefs. This part seems to be appended to the main as a 'filler', not clearly connected with the first part. It strikes me as not really fully integrated with the balance of the book.
The fantastical creatures being based on exploration is not necessarily related to the exploration noted including The Americas and prior discovery of Africa, India and Serendip (Sri Lanka). Indeed Unicorns, Dragons and Griffons were among the well-used figures of Heraldry and religious art and were prevalent in the culture. Other creatures such as Basilisk, fish-bird hybrids, the Fauvel or horse-from-hell, dog-serpent, mermen so and cynocephalus creatures (dog-headed-men) were well known of before the fourteenth Century.
The book is a decent work, but should not be taken as authoritative; though there is no more authoritative source beyond this either. It is recommended for the art work and the credible effort to give some unifying idea to this work.