In 1463, the Dutch city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch burned to ground in a catastrophic fire that destroyed more than 4000 homes. Witness to the blaze was 13 year old Hieronymus Bosch — a nightmare of destruction he interpreted as a holy judgement visited on a corrupt mankind.
Hieronymus Bosch wrote no letters, left no journal. We don’t know when he was born and there’s only a single sketch of a pensive old man that may be a self portrait. We only know he became ferociously religious, his macabre depictions of a horrifying afterlife earning him a respected position in the Catholic confraternity The Illustrious Brotherhood of Our Blessed Lady. From this position of clerical authority he brought the religious narratives of his day to life in vivid detail.
Bosch’s warped imagination was met with incredible acclaim. He was commissioned to create altarpieces in the Netherlands and abroad. His work was so influential, many painters of the day imitated his beautiful detail and grotesque themes, a body of work that today who’s attribution is debated to this day.
Reed Enger, "Hieronymus Bosch, Welcome to Hell," in Obelisk Art History, Published June 05, 2015; last modified May 21, 2018, http://arthistoryproject.com/artists/hieronymus-bosch/.