Bosch and Widgets

Nobody really understands Hieronymus Bosch. “I cannot help feeling,” art historian and early-Netherlandish specialist Erwin Panofsky concluded, “that the real secret of his magnificent nightmares and daydreams has still to be disclosed.” Last week I visited the painter’s hometown of ‘s-Hertogenbosch to see the extraordinary retrospective recently opened at the Noordbrabants Museum to mark the 500th anniversary of his death. It comprises of 103 works, 41 of which are attributed to Bosch, more than have ever been gathered in one place before. I went because I wanted to understand how somebody working so long ago could make work that seems so contemporary in its surrealism and its resistance to interpretation.