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Hieronymus Bosch (Netherlands ca. 1450‑1516)

Follower of, second half of the 16th century. The Temptation of Saint Anthony

To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale Week 12 – 15 December 2023

Lot 607 Hieronymus Bosch (Netherlands ca. 1450‑1516). Follower of, second half of the 16th century. The Temptation of Saint Anthony. Oil on panel, 41.5 x 29 cm.

With label: ”IV” and inscription ”30 1403” on the reverse.
A dendrochronological analysis by Prof. Dr. Peter Klein is available upon request.


800.000 – 1.200.000 SEK
€ 70.000 – 105.000


Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 23 October 1992, lot 5.
A Swedish private collection.

In context

Bizarre and almost grotesque creatures in an imaginative, surrealistic landscape – these are the main features that strike the viewer when taking a close look at one of the most fascinating paintings offered at the auction. These characteristics clearly derive from the 15th/16th century Netherlandish painter of the Northern Renaissance, Hieronymus Bosch, whose idiom has captivated and intrigued viewers over the centuries and influenced the history of art. Despite his great recognition and fame, only a handful of paintings have been confidently given to his hand. Like Bosch’s oeuvre, his life and education have remained a bit of a mystery. Born in the city of ’s-Hertogenbosch, he was probably trained by his father. He gained popularity already during his lifetime and received commissions from abroad. Many artists were inspired by his unique approach to painting, characterized by his attention to detail and imaginative compositions. Followers of Bosch were encouraged by his fantastical visions and incorporated similar elements into their own works. It was through engravings that his idiom was mostly spread thoughout Europe and set off a large production of so called diableries. The largest center for this production was in Antwerp, mostly by anonymous masters.

Bosch’s spirit is clearly recognizable in the present painting, where St. Anthony in the centre of the composition is haunted by various devils, such as a cock blowing the trumpet near female nudes at the entrance of a grotto which appears as a mouth of hell. These creatures symbolize the temptations and trials faced by St. Anthony during his period of isolation and asceticism in the desert. The Temptation of St. Anthony was a popular subject in Christian art. Hieronymus Bosch explored the theme in the triptych, now in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga in Lisbon.

The present panel’s composition differs considerably from that in the Lisbon triptych and appears to be an independent creation. St. Anthony was born circa 251 in Egypt into a well established family, but rejected all earthly wealth at the age of 18 and spent the most of his life as a hermit. His life is recorded by bishop Athanasius from Alexandria in the 4th century. He described the Saint’s tempations in such detail that they became the source for visual interpretations, first in woodcut printing and later in painting.

Dendrochronological research of the present panel by Prof. Dr. Peter Klein has established that the youngest heartwood ring dates from 1544, allowing an earliest possible date of execution of 1558. The present panel is a very refine example of the subject matter by a follower of Bosch. It is rich in allegory and deeply symbolic following the general practice of the attention to the detail, which allows us the full Bosch experience. 

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