January 18th, 2016
Bosch at the Accademia Galleries Out of about 20 surviving panels by the visionary Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch 3 are in Venice.
They were in the house of Cardinal Domenico Grimani (1461-1523) at Campo Santa Maria Formosa. Grimani, from a powerful family of noble merchants, was a refined humanist, and is considered, together with Andrea Odoni, the most brilliant art collector in Venice.
His collection, that was bequeathed to the Venetian Republic at the prelate’s death, is unique in Venice for its variety and quality, includes works from major Italian Renaissance artists, such as Giorgione, Titian, Leonardo, Raphael, to Greek and Roman statues (now at the Marciana Library in Venice), and a spectacular collection of Flemish (or “Ponentine”) art.
The code known as Breviario Grimani, gem of the cardinal’s collection, is considered the greatest masterpiece of Flemish Renaissance Illumination. His oils by H. Bosch (the Triptych of St Liberata, the Tryptyc of the Hermit Saints, and the four panels of the Visions of the Afterlife) are the only works by the Brabantian Artist existing in Italy.
Two out of three of the Venetian works by Bosch are now exhibited at the Accademia Galleries after an accurate restoration. While the Triptyc of the Hermits is still under restoration. The 3 paintings will then leave Italy for ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Holland, where a great exhibition will commemorate 500 years from the great artist’s death. Hieronymus was born in this town most probably in 1453, from a family of painters, and here he conducted his life.
The panels will stay at the Accademia until February 7th, then from February 13th until May 8th 2016. Later on there will be two more major Bosch exhibitions: at the Prado, Madrid, during the summer, and then at Palazzo Ducale in Venice during fall. The Vision of the Afterlife (1500 – 1503) and the St Liberata Triptych (1505) now visible at the Accademia Galleries were restored for the occasion, while the third work, the Triptych of the Hermits is still under restoration.
In 2011 a team of Dutch, Canadian and USA experts, in collaboration with the Gallerie dell’Accademia, started to verify the age and the state of preservation of these precious works, using some of the most updated techniques, such as X-radiography, infrared reflectography, infrared photography, dendrochronology . In 2013 the actual works of restoration began at the Misericordia lab in Cannaregio, Venice.
A team of Dutch and Italian specialists has proceeded at substituting the 19th century wooden “cradles” ( = gridlike constructions at the back of a wood panel to prevent warping) with more flexible plastic supports, that allow the oak panels to “breathe” and move, and will also work a s frames. The paint layer was also cleaned and conserved.
An absolute novelty is the exhibition of the reverses of the 4 panels of the “Visions of the Afterlife”, which were once considered a later addition, have proven nstead to be original, a sort of marble imitation obtained by using an ante litteram “dripping paint” technique, creating a surprisingly ‘modern’ effect. The St Liberata (or Wilgeforte, or Virgo Fortis, or Uncumber…) Martyrdom belongs to a typology rarely to be found in Hieronymus Bosch production. He seldom depicted spectacular or miraculous martyrdoms which are so frequent in medieval art.
There’s a possibility that Bosch painted this picture during a trip to northern Italy, but we really know very little about this man It is more likely that it was commissioned by Italian businessmen or ambassadors residing in the Netherlands.
The cleaning of this brightly colored painting has given new light and depth to the northern landscape in the background. The four panels of the ‘Visions of the Afterlife’ contain one of the most intriguing and most frequently investigated scenes ever created by the Artist: ‘The Ascent of the Blessed to Heaven”.
This vision is unique, no other painter envisions the ‘passage to Heaven’ with a dazzling and enormous cylinder of light, at the end of which an invisible strength seems to be sucking the souls into a glowing unknown dimension.
Persons returning back to life from coma or people that have regressed under analysis to the moment of birth refer of similar visions. We don’t know whether Hieronymus experienced it himself , but it is surely one of his most striking and unforgettable visions.