Since Hieronymus Bosch started daubing paint on boards, his Medieval visions of heaven and hell have shaped Christian civilization and been used to admonish sinners. Born Jheronimus (or Jeroen) van Aeken around 1450 AD in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in Brabant, the artist was a pessimist and stern moralist who displayed in his art no illusions about the rationality of human nature nor confidence in the love of God; his triptychs are sermons on folly, sin, and damnation.
As mysterious and enigmatic as any artist, little is known of Bosch’s life; he left no writings, no correspondence or diaries or notes, and what is known comes from church records … mostly the account books of the Illustrious Brotherhood of Our Blessed Lady. It appears that his grandfather, Jan van Aeken, was an artist and had five sons, four of whom were also artists of sorts. Around 1480, Hieronymus married Alety Goyaerts den Meervenne, daughter of a wealthy family; not only did the marriage improve his social standing but gave him a comfortable life … enough so that he didn’t need to work for a living. An entry in the accounts of the Illustrious Brotherhood records a funeral mass for Bosch in August 1516.
Any chronology of Bosch’s surviving painted triptychs is difficult because, of the 35 to 40 works attributed to him, only seven are signed and none dated. It is his macabre masterpieces such as 'The Cure of Folly,' 'The Seven Deadly Sins,' 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' and the allegorical 'The Last Judgment' that exemplified his dark and disturbing visions of mankind and its enduring obsession with lust, obscenity, greed, and sin.