Heads Up For a Load of Hieronymous Bosch

Sneaky September Madrid getaway? Add Bosch at the Prado for some cultural heft

In his Catechism of Cliche, author, raconteur and newspaperman of the Underwood-and-whiskey mold Brian O’Nolan gathered a ‘unique compendium of all that is nauseating in contemporary writing’.

Even in 1950s Ireland, the assertion that September is the best month for travel qualified for inclusion, delivered as it so often is with a hint of smuggery at the asserter’s ability to side-step the usual restrictions of school-runs, high-season supplements and coach-tour congestion which plague those for whom holidays must be taken in August. Cliche though it may be, and with apologies to Myles Na Gopaleen (the nom de plume under which O’Nolan penned his Catechism of Cliche series for the Irish Times), September offers fine rewards to the lucky voyager who can avail of its charms.

For those whose Septembers are unsullied by the leaden poll of routine and responsibility, it may come as glad tidings that Madrid’s opulent Museo del Prado has recently declared an extension to its acclaimed and current exhibition of the works of Hieronymus Bosch. Quirks of fate and history involving the intermarriage of Spanish and Dutch royal families have left Spain, over the centuries, the residence of a large number of Bosch works, including his best-known triptych ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’. Nevertheless, it is rare that so many of the early Dutch Master and proto-surrealist’s paintings are gathered from their various homes across the peninsula and housed under one roof (loans from the palace of El Escorial make for a more complete collection than is common).
Hieronymous

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, oil on oak panels, 220 cm × 389 cm (87 in × 153 in), Museo del Prado, Madrid

Citing crowd pressures and long queues during August, with almost half a million viewers admitted during the month so far, the Museo del Prado and sponsoring entity the BBVA Foundation have reacted by extending the exhibition’s run until September 25th. A particularly tempting initiative, given the dark psychological nature of many of the works, is the late opening of the museum on the two final weekends of the period until midnight. Given the normally high September temperatures in the city, as well as local cultural habits, the late opening allows for a night-time viewing followed by a hearty meal – Madrid restaurants continue serving well into the small hours.

Heretical visions and cruel fantasy, the works of Hieronymous van Aken, 16th century Duke of Brabant need little introduction, even if we are more familiar with him under his descriptive surname, Bosch. A constructor of metaphor to rank alongside Milton or Dante, the collection of his works (as well as the excuse to pass a couple of days in the vibrant and ever-energetic city of Madrid) must rank as temptation enough to sin against that Catechism of Cliche and avail of a September sojourn.

Advance booking at the Museo del Prado website recommended, even in September.

Sean Keenan
About Sean Keenan 164 Articles
Sean Keenan used to write. Now he edits, and gets very annoyed about the word ‘ethereal’. Likely to bite anyone using the form ‘I’m loving….’. Don’t start him on the misuse of three-dot ellipses. Divides his time between mid-Spain and South-West France, like one of those bucktoothed, fur-clad minor-aristocracy ogresses you see in Hello magazine, only without the naff chandeliers. Twitter: @seaninspain

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