Bosch’s Last Judgement Triptych
One of the highlights of our stay in Vienna was a visit to the Paintings Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts.
We went there at the invitation of Claudia Bauer and were joined by Julia Nauhaus, Director of the Gallery. Quite soon the Paintings Gallery, and indeed the whole of the Academy building on Schillerplatz, is closing due to much needed renovation. Whilst this work is being carried out, which will take a period of about three years, many of the paintings will be shown in the Theatermuseum at the Lobkowitz Palace.
We were shown many fine Dutch and Flemish paintings in the gallery, including works by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Pieter de Hooch, and a series of oil sketches by Rubens and his workshop. Best of all, mind, was Bosch’s Last Judgement Triptych, which we saw up-close with the main panel apart from its side wings. A Dutch team had apparently examined it in detail a few days before and had made some significant discoveries concerning the drawings (false starts and abandoned schemes) beneath the completed vision.
It is a fascinating masterpiece, common and cosmic, which repays close study. To us it seems a fantastical cruel vision, rich in monstrous incident and enigmatic meaning, yet for Bosch’s contemporaries it was, perhaps, the dreamworld of Christendom made flesh. Darkness visible: one thinks of Milton or Dante. This is the world our forebears lived in.
The Paintings Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna will transfer to the Theatermuseum at the Lobkowitz Palace from 7 November 2017 and a drama, Bosch on Stage, will be shown from 22 November 2017 until the end of February 2018.
A virtual gallery of some of the paintings can be viewed here.