Four tapestries after Hieronymus Bosch (series)

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Four tapestries after Hieronymus Bosch (series)
Although this series was not at El Escorial during Philip II’s reign, and was not even part of his collection, it is currently displayed in the monastery to draw attention to the extensive collection of Bosch’s work – mainly religious – which the King assembled, most of which is now in the Museo del Prado or has been lost. The Haywain and The Garden of Earthly Delights were hung in El Escorial, as well as several versions of The Temptations of Saint Anthony, by Bosch or one of his followers. Other paintings on the life of Saint Martin were kept in the old Alcázar (Royal Palace) of Madrid at the time of the King’s death.

The first known series of tapestries based on Bosch’s work was made up of five panels, one of which depicted an elephant, and is mentioned in the inventory of King Francis I of France in 1542. The El Escorial series, however, belonged to Cardinal Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle, a statesman in the court of Philip II. It was weaved in Brussels before 1560, the year in which the Marquis of Villlafranca and then-vice regent of Catalonia, Don García de Toledo, expressed his wish to acquire a copy. In 1567 the third Duke of Alba and then-governor of the Low Countries, Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, acquired another series of just three panels, with the characters increased in size.

Upon the death of Granvelle, the tapestries were inherited by his nephew, who sold them to Emperor Rudolph II in 1600. Rudolph had been educated in Spain together with his uncle Philip II, and was known for his avid art collecting, and in particular for his yearning to acquire the King of Spain’s Bosch collection.

At an as-yet unknown date, the tapestries passed into the royal Spanish collection, being displayed for the first time to decorate the House of the Treasury in 1626. In 1646 Philip IV used them on a trip to Pamplona, and they are recorded in his inventory in 1666.


P. Junquera de Vega y C. Herrero Carretero, Catálogo de Tapices del Patrimonio Nacional. Volumen I: Siglo XVI, Madrid: Patrimonio Nacional, 1986, pp. 263-67.

P. Vandenbroeck, “Disparates cargados de sentido. Cultura popular, ideología burguesa y recuperación nobiliaria a propósito de una serie de tapices bruselenses según modelo del Bosco”, in F. Checa Cremades and B. J. García García (eds.), Los Triunfos de Aracne. Tapices flamencos de los Austrias en el Renacimiento, Madrid: Fundación Carlos de Amberes, 2011, pp. 151-223.

A. Pérez de Tudela, “Las relaciones artísticas de Antonio Perrenot con la ciudad de Nápoles previas a su virreinato en su correspondencia conservada en el Palacio Real de Madrid”, in Dimore Signorili a Napoli. Palazzo Zeballos Stigliano e il mecenatismo aristocratico dal XVI al XX secolo, Naples, 2013, pp. 253-254.

Series Four tapestries after Hieronymus Bosch

Models Inspired by paintings by Hieronymus Bosch

Manufacture Unknown workshop, Brussels, before 1560

Fabric Gold, silver, silk and wool

Location Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial

Origin Collection of Caridinal Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle


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