Attribution dispute leads to withdrawal of Bosch paintings

Two paintings by Dutch medieval artist Hieronymous Bosch (1450-1516) have been withdrawn from a major exhibition of the artist’s work, which opened in the Netherlands on Saturday (13 February).

Madrid’s Museo del Prado was due to lend ‘The Cure of Folly’ and ‘The Temptation of St Anthony’ for display in ‘Hieronymus Bosch: Visions of Genius’ at the Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch (’s-Hertogenbosch). A dispute over the attribution of the works led the Prado to cancel the loans a few short days before the exhibition opened to the public.

While Prado curators believe ‘The Cure of Folly’ to be an autograph work painted by Bosch between 1500-1510, Dutch researchers at the Bosch Research and Conservation Project (BRCP) concluded it was from his workshop or by a follower.

The BRCP also reject the Prado’s attribution of ‘The Temptation of St Anthony’ as by the hand of Bosch and dated around 1490. They consider it to be the work of a later follower and completed around 1530-40.

The Prado criticised the BRCP’s research, stating that they had reattributed the works on the basis of “extremely subjective stylistic aspects.”

The demotion of works previously attributed to Bosch is the consequence of meticulous study of his surviving paintings and drawings by the BRCP. The Dutch research project was a 9 year venture leading up to the Bosch retrospective, which commemorates 500 years since the artist’s death.

Last November we reported that the BRCP had used cutting-edge infrared reflectography and ultrahigh-resolution digital macro photography to declare two masterpieces attributed to Bosch as inauthentic. They concluded that ‘Christ Carrying the Cross’ and ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’, which also hangs in the Prado were most likely produced by Bosch’s studio.

Noordbrabants Museum director, Charles de Mooij, told The Art Newspaper he regretted that the works had been pulled from the exhibition. Despite having no Bosch works of their own, the Noordbrabants Museum has succeeded in securing 17 out of 24 of his surviving works for display.

‘Visions of Genius’ is on display at the Noordbrabants Museum, ’s-Hertogenbosch until 8 May 2016.

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