The Missing Grave of Hieronymus Bosch

Hieronymus Bosch was surreal before surrealism was an acknowledged commercial art form. He had no equal during his artistic reign in the late 1400's and it would be another half century befo re the works of Dali began blowing everyone's minds with styles inherited from Bosch. With German roots the gifted Jeroen van Aken (Hieronymus Bosch) was born in the Netherland town of s'Hertogenbosch more than five hundred years ago. Hieronymus along with the rest of his family were all painters. He took over the family paint shop after the death of his father in 1482 and a few years later married a prominent rich girl named Aleit van de Mervenne, whose extensive real estate holdings provided the financial security needed for Hieronymus to paint freely without having to worry about paying the rent. After all, paying the rent has always been the artist’s worst enemy. With a secured roof over his head and no need to worry about money Hieronymus was allowed the freedom to paint whichever subject matter that he chose. Soon he became known as the “devil’s painter” as he began churning out paintings with decadent scenes depicting sins, moral failings, demons, hybrid humans mixed with animals and cruel machines all venting their disgust with the church. 

The works of Bosch are complex, original, imaginative, confusing and light years ahead of their time. And while Hieronymus was pushing the boundaries of the known creative world his personal life had all but ran out of paint. In just a decade he had gone from one of the wealthiest men in the Netherlands to bankrupt and homeless. Failed business attempts and continual fighting with his wife and her family left Hieronymus financially ruined. Bosch died penniless at the age of 66 but not before finishing his final masterpiece “Death and the Miser”. The Brotherhood of Our Lady church buried him in an unmarked pauper's grave on August 9, 1516 and as Europe began to leave the Middle Ages behind so too did they leave the works of Bosch which were pretty much forgotten about for the next three centuries. Bosch never dated any of his paintings and only signed a few pieces of his art in large foreboding Gothic letters. Despite being one of the most influential artists of all time his bones have never been recovered and the exact location of his pauper’s grave was paved over decades ago. In the end Bosch lived a tortured existence like those depicted in his paintings and sketches of which less than 27 are known to exist.  

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