Sunday, June 5, 2016

01 Works, RELIGIOUS ART - 15 & 16th Century Paintings from the Bible! With Footnotes - Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) The Hay Wagon, 23

Hieronymus Bosch's The Haywain Triptych, an important Dutch masterpiece, is returning to the Netherlands this fall for two major exhibitions marking the first time the work sets foot on Dutch soil in 450 years. The Haywain will be among the genre paintings providing a glimpse of everyday life in the 16th century. 

Five hundred years ago, a cheeky Roman Catholic artist from the Dutch town of ’s-Hertogenbosch revolutionized the triptych, the three-panel altarpiece form traditionally used for scenes of virgins, cherubs and saints.

In his “Haywain Triptych” of 1515, Hieronymus Bosch instead painted in ordinary sinners — murderers, whores, quacks and errant clergymen — being escorted toward Hell by a weird parade of rodent-faced demons and fish-shaped devils. It is among the most popular works of early Renaissance art still around today. More

Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516)
The Hay Wagon, circa 1516
Oil on panel
Height: 147 cm (57.9 in). Width: 212 cm (83.5 in).
Current location
Prado Museum

The Haywain Triptych is a panel painting by Hieronymus Bosch, currently housed in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain. The painting was part of a group of six acquired by king Philip II of Spain in 1570, and shipped to El Escorial four years later. It was later sold to the Marquis of Salamanca, and divided into three paintings. In 1848, the central panel was bought by Isabella II of Spain and brought to Aranjuez, the right one was returned to Escorial and the left went to the Prado. The triptych was finally recomposed in 1914 in the latter museum.

"Bosch did not invent the hay wain motif, which had previously appeared in 15th century songs. Hay wains also featured in urban parades, carrying emblematic personages with banderoles identifying them as different forms of objectionable behaviour. Several scenes in the foreground of Bosch's Hay Wain are comparable with the texts or prosen that appeared in the banderoles displayed in the parade. Other examples of behaviour that were characterized as 'hay' were gluttony, folly, lechery, avarice and deceit. In other words, the Hay Wain is a critical mirror of various objectionable and foolishly sinful forms of conduct, as reflected in the earliest interpretation of Bosch's painting. This comes from a text by Ambrosio de Morales (1513-91) about the 'Table of Cebes', a literary text dating possibly from the 1st century AD, which was drawn on several times by artists in the 16th an 17h centuries... '"hooiwagen ... in Castilian, amounts to "wagon of trivial things". This hay wain is thus truly a "trash cart" and its name matches its meaning...' More

The Haywain triptych exists in two versions, one in the Escorial (San Lorenzo de El Escorial), the other in the Prado, Madrid. Both are in poor condition and have been heavily restored, and scholars disagree as to which is the original. 

Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516)
The Hay Wagon, circa 1516
Detail, Center Panel

The central panel features a large wagon of hay surrounded by a multitude of fools engaged in a variety of sins, quite apart from the sins of lust which dominates the Garden of Earthly Delights

Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516)
The Hay Wagon, circa 1516
Detail, Top Center Panel

In the center panel Bosch shows Christ in the sky, not paralleled in the Garden. An angel on top of the wagon looks to the sky, praying, but none of the other figures see Christ looking down on the world. 

Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516)
The Hay Wagon, circa 1516
Detail, Bottom Center Panel

Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516)
The Hay Wagon, circa 1516
Detail, Bottom Center Panel

The rightward bow of the figures around the wagon provides the force for the viewer’s eye to move with them on their journey and the cart is drawn by infernal beings which drag everyone to Hell, depicted on the right panel.

Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516)
The Hay Wagon, circa 1516
Detail, Bottom Center Panel

All these sinners are following the holy bale of hay, trying to scrape away a little for themselves, and all the while murdering each other, amassing personal wealth and lusting after the opposite sex. Hay, after all, is also what you might use to kindle a fire.

Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516)
The Hay Wagon, circa 1516
Detail, Bottom Center Panel

Kings and bishops are all following the hay, too. The king seems to be taking the council of one holy man with a golden crown. It’s worthwhile noting that the King is wearing exactly the same crown as God in the first panel. The bishop is wearing the same-coloured robe too. Both of them have garbed themselves in the dress of earthly gods, Bosch seems to be saying, but neither of them have quite got it right.

Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516)
The Hay Wagon, circa 1516
Detail, Bottom Center Panel

In the bottom right of this panel, a fat, corpulent friar gets drunk while his subordinate monks and nuns stuff a sack full of the holy hay, hoarding it for themselves. Beside them, one nun is trying to pay a musician with a handful.

A diagram beside his table shows worms and even a rat invading a human heart – and sure enough, in his pouch there is also a bundle of hay. beside him, women and ladies in waiting share gossip, and care for children while roasting a pig’s head spiced with herbs.


The details here are wonderful, and paint such a clear vision of everyday life in the Medieval Netherlands. The clothes, the food, the burning moral quandaries – all of it a perfect snapshot of how people lived, and what they feared.

Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516)
The Hay Wagon, circa 1516
Detail, Bottom Left Panel



Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516)
The Hay Wagon, circa 1516
Detail, Top Left Panel

At the top of the left panel, the rebel angels are cast out of Heaven while God sits enthroned, the angels turning into insects as they break through the clouds.

Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516)
The Hay Wagon, circa 1516
Detail,Bottom Left Panel

God creates Eve from the rib of Adam. Next, Adam and Eve find the serpent and the tree; the serpent offers them an apple. Finally, at the lowest part of the panel, the angel forces the two out of the Garden of Eden. Adam speaks with the angel; Eve, in a melancholic pose, looks ahead to the right.

Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516)
The Hay Wagon, circa 1516
Detail, Right Panel

It would be fair to say that Bosch was obsessed with fire, and for good reason. He grew up and spent much of his life in the thriving Dutch city of Brabant, where, in 1463, 4,000 houses in the town were destroyed by a catastrophic fire. The approximately 13-year-old Bosch presumably witnessed this terrifying event, and the particularly horrific and realistic depiction of hell here seems to spring right from those memories: the sky choked with smoke, lit from beneath by the flames.



The beasts and demons aren’t just tearing humans apart, flaying them, devouring them alive and hanging them from the rooftops – they’re also building some kind of demonic tower. One demon is chopping some wood into a beam, while another is climbing a ladder with a hod full of mortar, and a monster with a frog’s body puts a brick meticulously into place.

Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516)
The Hay Wagon, circa 1516
Cover, Shutters


The exterior of the shutters, like most contemporary Netherlandish triptychs, were also painted, although in this case Bosch used full colors instead of the usual grisaille. When closed, they form a single scene depicting a wayfarer. Around him is a series of miniatures including the robbery of another wayfarer and a hanged man. The man uses a stick to repel a dog.

According to the most recent interpretations, this figure may represent the man who follows his road in spite of the temptation of sins (such as lust, perhaps symbolized by the two dancing shepherds) and the evil acts occurring around him.


Hieronymus Bosch (1450 – 1516) was an Early Netherlandish painter. His work is known for its fantastic imagery, detailed landscapes, and illustrations of religious concepts and narratives. Within his lifetime his work was collected in the Netherlands, Austria, and Spain, and widely copied, especially his macabre and nightmarish depictions of hell.

Little is known of Bosch's life, though there are some records. He spent most of it in the town of 's-Hertogenbosch, where he was born in his grandfather's house. The roots of his forefathers are in Aachen, in present-day Germany. His pessimistic and fantastical style cast a wide influence on northern art of the 16th century, with Pieter Bruegel the Elder being his best known follower. His paintings have been difficult to translate from a modern point of view; attempts to associate instances of modern sexual imagery with fringe sects or the occult have largely failed. Today he is seen as a hugely individualistic painter with deep insight into man's desires and deepest fears. Attribution has been especially difficult; today only about 25 paintings are confidently given to his hand along with 8 drawings. Approximately another half dozen paintings are confidently attributed to his workshop. His most acclaimed works consist of a few triptych altarpieces, the most outstanding of which is The Garden of Earthly Delights. More
















Acknowledgement: Wikipedia, Paul M.M. Cooper