Hieronymus Bosch: Touched By The Devil pleased me enormously. I love Bosch’s work, and there were several moments during this documentary when the camera lingered adoringly over his paintings.
The film tells the story of gathering Bosch’s paintings for a 500th anniversary show in Den Bosch. A group of museum guys—archivists, restorers, historians—track down the works, and then have to wheel-and-deal with assorted other museum types in order to borrow the paintings. The Venetian museum director said, “These paintings cannot leave the Galleria L’Academia unless they are restored.” That was a thinly veiled shake-down—the Dutch team had to pay for the restoration. Leave it to the Italians.
The Prado bureaucrats were hilarious. A lot of delicate negotiation happened off-screen, but was implied. I chortled a few times.
A painting and a drawing were newly attributed to Hieronymus, and one painting was de-attributed. There was a scene when the team was asking, “Who will call Ghent to tell them?” Meaning, what poor sap would have the misfortune of telling the museum in Ghent that their Hieronymus Bosch wasn’t painted by Hieronymus Bosch? The team leader, they decided.
Meantime, a painting in a Kansas City museum was newly confirmed as a Bosch. That was fun. It makes me imagine finding a dusty, cracked old painting in the attic…and having it attributed to a great master. I could write a novel about that. Maybe I will.
It is, ultimately, Bosch’s imagery that is the star of this film. I was delighted to realize that not all the fantastic figures hail from the astral plane. Many do, of course; you can see the same demons there, if you alter your consciousness so as to perceive the astral plane. However, several figures are actually from the Devic Kingdom. I exclaimed out loud, right there in the Film Forum theater, when I realized that. How cool! The Devic Kingdom represented in a painting from 500 years ago!
The Garden of Earthly Delights ranks among my top 10 favorite paintings, it’s just ravishingly beautiful, a feast for the senses. I get lost in it.
If you like Bosch or love art, then go see Hieronymus Bosch: Touched By The Devil. It won’t disappoint.