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Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
This vagabond or pedlar with mismatched shoes is symbolic of man on his path through life. He is a kind of 'Everyman' a popular late 15th century moral tale. He represents the 'homo viator', the pilgrim who goes through life weighed down by the baggage of his earthly existence. He suffers his lot along a path full of temptations.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is the only museum in the Netherlands with a collection of paintings by Hieronymus Bosch. It also has two of his drawings, including The Owl’s Nest, one of the most beautiful of all. Bosch was a celebrated artist in his day, with works in the collections of aristocrats and high-ranking dignitaries. The Archduchess Mary of Austria owned one of his paintings, and in 1504 Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, ordered a triptych of The Last Judgment. Bosch was born in about 1450 in ’s-Hertogenbosch, where he lived and worked all his life. He came from a family of painters. His father, who was presumably his teacher, his brother, a cousin and several uncles all worked in the family studio in the market square of ’s-Hertogenbosch too. One of his important clients was the Confraternity of Our Lady. Bosch made several works for the redecoration of their chapel in Saint John’s Cathedral. He also advised the brothers regarding commissions to other artists and craftsmen, and was sometimes called upon to appraise the work they submitted. Even during Bosch’s lifetime, artists were copying his work. They imitated his style and some sold their paintings under his name. Soon after his death collectors were warned about the many forgeries in circulation. Worldwide, no more than about twenty-five panels are accepted as authentic. The museum’s Wedding at Cana was long accepted as a genuine Bosch, until a study of the annual growth rings in the panel revealed that the wood could not have been harvested before 1544—twenty-eight years after Bosch’s death. The painting is probably a copy of a lost original by the master. However beautiful Bosch’s fanciful paintings may be, art historians are still often uncertain as to what they mean. Many of them, like the painting of Saint Christopher, depict bizarre worlds and creatures. Fish with legs, along with demons and monsters are recurrent motifs in Bosch´s oeuvre. On more than one occasion, Bosch is known to have drawn inspiration from contemporary sources like the popular Ship of Fools by Sebastian Brant. The iniquity of humankind is a central theme in many of his works. The famous Pedlar is a case in point. Though opinions differ, it is generally believed to represent man’s journey through life. The pedlar in the painting is interpreted as Man, weighed down by the burden of sin on his back, endeavouring to live his life without succumbing to earthly temptation. Temptation is represented here by the brothel in the background.
material and technique: oil on panel
kind of object: painting
creditline: Verworven met steun van / Acquired with the support of: Vereniging Rembrandt, D.G. van Beuningen, F.W. Koenigs en/and J.P. van der Schilden 1931
inventory number: 1079 (OK)