Bosch: NOT another Renaissance Art Exhibition

A few days ago, I had the pleasure to visit one of the exhibitions proposed by Palazzo Reale “Bosch e un altro Rinascimento” and I have decided to present this cultural event since I found it interesting and, in a sense, unconventional. Indeed, starting from the 9th of November 2022 until the 12nd of March, Palazzo Reale has set an exhibition dedicated to the renaissance painter Jheronimus Bosch (1453 – 1516) and its influence in the artistic world.

The exhibition is curated by Bernard Aikema, Fernando Checa Cremades and Claudio Salsi, and it hosts more than one hundred artworks: not only paintings, but also sculptures, tapestries, ancient books and various other objects which show “another” side of the Renaissance.

The native Flemish artist who gives the name to the exhibition is well known thanks to its peculiar way of creating characters and strange creatures within its paintings to express emotions, send messages and talk about concepts in a wider context. 

In the several rooms of the ground floor of Palazzo Reale in which the display is structured, the visitors have the possibility to see some of the most famous and iconic canvases.

After a brief presentation of the main contents and a detailed history of Bosch’s personal and artistic life, the first rooms are strictly dedicated to the Flemish painter. In particular, some of his most famous triptychs are there: “The Last Judgement Triptych”, the “Tryptic of the Hermits” and “The Temptations of Saint Anthony”.

 The Last Judgement Triptych

The first one comes from the Groeningemuseum in Bruges, and it was probably painted around 1486. It represents, as its name suggests, the day in which God will decide about the destiny of the human population. 

Divided in three panels, in the painting we can see on the left panel a representation of Paradise, with blue and pink used as the main theme colors, and on the right side the Hell, characterized by a fire in the background.

The Tryptic of the Hermits, which belongs to the collection of Gallerie di Venezia and which was painted in 1493, portraits three hermits: one for each of the three panels. 

In the central panel we observe the key to the representation: God is sitting on a rainbow, surrounded by angels and he is dividing the outstanding people choosing their destiny. In the lower part of the panel many creatures and monsters are represented in a weird landscape that mixes heart and lakes in continuity with the adjoining panels. The monsters are used for the punishment of the vices: the scene results to be a bit disturbing. 

 The Tryptic of the Hermits

The Tryptic of the Hermits, which belongs to the collection of Gallerie di Venezia and which was painted in 1493, portraits three hermits: one for each of the three panels. 

In the central one, Saint Girolamo is standing on his knees in the desert and prays; in the left one we see Saint Antonio and in the right one Saint Egidio. As for the other analyzed triptych, also in this case Bosch represents many tiny monsters, fruit of the union of different animals and humans.

 Temptations of St Anthony

The triptych of the Temptation of St Anthony, painted in 1503, is part of the collection of the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga in Lisbon.

The painting represents in the left panel the flight and the following fell of the Saint, in the central one his tentation and in the right one the Saint in the act of meditation. As in the two latter cases, again the sign of the author stays in the details and in the characterization of the monsters represented in the lower parts of the panel, which suggest inquietude and underline the geniality of the artist.

Visiting the exhibition I found very interesting the in-depth analysis of the fantastical and weird creatures, which are the most recognisable sign of the Flemish painter. There is indeed an entire room dedicated to the creation of these elements in Bosch’s art. The most disturbing and strange creatures are indeed represented out of their context, followed by a brief description of their “anatomic” characteristics.

Going through the rooms, it is possible to see many other kinds of works and artists that have a similar way of representing certain themes. Indeed, as the name of the exhibition itself suggests, the aim that the curators wanted to reach is to give another point of view of the Renaissance. We are used to thinking about this historical period and cultural movement as the celebration of classicism, proportions and beauty, and during the path in Bosch’s artistic life and its influences we are able to see the different interpretations that many artists gave of this crucial period. What is relevant in this view of Renaissance, is that the combination of the different artistic representations influenced well known artists such as Tiziano and Raffaello.

So, there is the possibility to stare at tapestries, ancient books and various other objects in which is particularly evident the influence of Bosch’s work.

The atmosphere researched is in line with the aforementioned view of Renaissance offered by the Bosch’s art: the lighting of the exhibition is concentrated only on the artworks, while the other areas of the rooms appear dark, maybe to suggest the inquietude and vague feeling often provoked by certain scenes represented in Bosch’s canvas.

In the final part of the display there is also an audio-visual reproduction named Triptìko, which consists of “path within the dreamlike world of the Flemish painter”.

During my visit, I have appreciated the logical path followed by the curators. Indeed, the exhibition starts with Bosch’s presentation, which I actually found an interesting element, since we do not know much about his life, it continues with some of his most famous artworks (it is relevant to underline that there were his typical triptychs) and then it develops itself showing how this latter artist has influenced the perception of art and world both in many geographical areas and kinds of art objects. 

On the other hand, even though the works presented are among Bosch’s most famous ones, the name of the exhibition suggests that the focus is on the Flemish artist, while there are actually a few paintings coming from his hands, while the majority are the fruit of his influence: the attention of the visitors should therefore be on the importance of the artist’s sign in the art world and not on the relevance of his works.

I hope that this article has tempted you to go to Palazzo Reale before the 12th of March to enjoy this unconventional exhibition.

In that case, I suggest you to download the app for the audio guide, since it is useful to listen to explanations of the many details observable in the artworks (especially if you decide to go to visit it during the weekend when it is crowded!)

For any information about the tickets or any curiosity, you can visit the following link:

By Francesca della Rocca