Friday, July 24, 2009

Haphazardly Hunting Hieronymus

We visited the wonderful Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York today. As with any museum of this stature, there is way too much stuff to see, even with a dozen visits.

My secret master plan for handling big art museum overload: chop the impossible down to something I can actually do. In my case, that means hunting for Hieronymus Bosch. I can't see everything in the museum, but I can darned well see all of their Bosch collection. Other than than, I just wander around randomly until I get tired.

It's a humble plan, but it's my plan.

Why Bosch? Beats me. I ran across some of his quirky and troubling work during my formative years, and it appealed to me oddly. His works are rare enough world-wide, with only 25 currently attributed to him. They are so rare on this side of the Atlantic that finding any of them is often an interesting challenge all by itself.

Finding anything at the Met also turned out to be a real challenge. Besides being huge, its hallways are convoluted enough that the best docent advice I got was to walk in some general direction for a while, and then to ask someone else. It was rare that any of the specific directions I got from them turned out to be helpful.

For a while, it was tricky finding a docent who had even heard of Bosch. Finally, though, I found two of them on the second floor. Both, however, told me that the Met had no actual Bosch -- just one that was "painted in the style of Bosch".

Our Bosch-ward course through the museum was probably pretty similar to the classic 3-dimensional drunkard's walk. However, our wanderings finally led us to the room of the imitation Bosch, which was titled Christ's Descent into Hell.

This painting was accompanied by the following blurb:
The panel was painted during a Bosch revival in the sixteenth century, when the artist's fiery scenes of hell were enormously popular throughout Europe, and especially in Italy, where they were prized for their nightmarish and visionary qualities.
However, we were delighted to find, just two paintings away, an actual Bosch, titled Adoration of the Magi.

Not one of his more bizarre works, but pretty swell nonetheless. Its blurb:
Long thought to be a later pastiche, this Adoration of the Magi can now be placed among Bosch's earliest autograph works ca. 1470-75. The salient features of its underdrawing, the tunnel-like perspective, and certain of the rather wooden figure types with sensitively rendered faces are closely related to Bosch's Ecce Homo in the St├Ądel Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, of approximately the same date.
Thus endeth my current round of Hunt for Hieronymus. My cumulative Bosch-score for the U. S. now shows New York in a tie with Washington, D.C., with one H-point apiece. Given the current planetary paucity of Bosch's, I may be running out of U. S. cities that actually have one. However, I'll keep an eye out for him on my next trips to Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco.


Lady Mammo said...

Enjoyed your musings, but I actually liked the "imitation" more than the Bosch! Who is the artist?

The Samurai Radiologist said...

@ Lady Mammo:


Even the Met doesn't know who actually painted the imitation. The card next to the painting merely says "Style of Hieronymus Bosch. Netherlandish, about 1550-60".