“Heaven and hell” a review on El Bosco exhibition for the V Centenary in Museo del Prado, Madrid
After being extended for two weeks more, due to people’s demand you are still on time not to miss the exhibition commemorating the fifth anniversary of the death of Hieronymus Bosch (born Van Aken), colloquially called in Spain “El Bosco”. It only takes sixteen euros and two hours waiting on a queue to be transported to heaven, hell and all the imagined intermediate situations. It is worthy.
Promoted by BBVA Foundation and curated by Pilar Silva specialist in Flemish painting at the Museum, this spectacular, innovative exhibition, showcases the masterpieces of drawing and painting of this enigmatic Renaissance man (h. 1450-1516), as ever before. You follow a circuit that will remind you of being inside a Richard Serra´s sculpture; all the triptychs, and some of the drawings and paintings are exempt so you can go around them, see the front and painted backs, feel it, fuse with the piece.
The difficulty on the chronology of the works, symptom of genius, has forced to order them by themes. Seven sections, like the number of deadly sins that always inspired his works and that depict one of the most popular and controversial piece of the show, lately attributed to a follower, the table top painting “The seven deadly sins and the four last things”. The first section, dedicated to his hometown in ‘s-Hertongenbosch (now Netherlands, then Flanders and from where he took his artistic name); Childhood and public life of Christ; The Saints; Paradise and hell; The garden of earthly delights; Man´s world: Deadly sins and secular works and Passion of Christ.
Eight of his best-known works, including “The garden of earthly delights”; “The Haywain Triptych” and “The Adoration of the Magi”, belong to the Museum and National Patrimony. That is so, because, even being considered at his time as a renowned heretic due to his interpretations of the human and the divine, his greatest fan and collector was the fanatic Catholic King Philip II of Spain, so connected with Plymouth and with both British Queens, the Catholic Maria I, “Bloody Mary”, his wife, and his sister in law the Protestant Elizabeth I, “The Virgin Queen” and whose freak last will was to die surrounded by his works in “El Escorial” Monastery in Madrid and so he did, being in his last moment unaccountable untruthful to his own strong Catholic believes.
Other masterpieces have been kindly lend by other Museums from London, New York, Lisbon, Paris, Vienna, Venice, Rotterdam, Berlin, Philadelphia or Washington.
Focusing on the art of “El Bosco”, you discover everything, every vision, every colour and besides many other art movements and modern trends, like cubism, impressionism, surrealism…even comic and cartoons, illustration and animation. He was a free mind in a time of obscurantism, a forerunner, a prophet and that it is why he raises so much passion nowadays. An icon. Universal and unique.
Need to appreciate, for its modern view, the simultaneous showcasing of drawings and paintings from unknown artists belonging to his workshop or following his influences.
To end with a walk in the clouds, touching paradise, you can visit upstairs the video installation “Infinite garden” where you will feel inside the painting, listening to the sounds of heaven. Congratulations to their creators Álvaro Perdices and Andrés Sanz for the originality of the site and the new sensations.
If you absolutely cannot make it, at least visit it through the webpage www.museodelprado.es/actualidad/exposicion/el-bosco-la-exposicion-del-v-centenario/, where you will find much more information; have a look at the multimedia videos, a must; and be conscious of what you have missed.
If you can, be aware that you will have to leave your magnifying glass at the cloakroom. They are forbidden.
Susana Gómez Laín,
Susana Gómez Laín, ex-student of PDP at College of Art in Plymouth.
Volume 31 number 2, November / December 2016 pp 31/33