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Researchers Confirm Nelson-Atkins Collection Includes Rare Hieronymus Bosch

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.

Updated at 1:43 p.m.  

A 16th-century oil-on-wood panel, in the collection of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for decades, is now considered to be the work of Dutch master Hieronymus Bosch. 

The Temptation of St. Anthony is one of only 25 paintings attributed to Bosch in the world — and only one of five in the United States. 

"You see the figure of St. Anthony resting on one hand on his staff, that is one of his significant attributes. And with his other hand, he is dipping a big, bulbous jug into the water," described Rima Girnius, associate curator of European painting, on Up to Date

"He's surrounded by a host of various, hybrid creatures, little monsters, that really personify different temptations that he is trying to resist."

The panel was acquired by the Nelson-Atkins in the 1930s, and assigned to the workshop of Hieronymus Bosch. The work, dating from 1500 to 1510, hasn't been on display at the museum since 2003. Researchers with the Bosch Research and Conservation Project, or BRCP, saw an image of it in the museum's catalogue and asked to take a closer look.

The BRCP studied the underdrawing, a sketch on the oak panel, with help from a copy of an infrared electrogram. They followed up in September 2015 to visit the Nelson-Atkins and view the panel in person. Technical examinations confirmed that the painting was a "significant addition to the small body of work produced by Hieronymus Bosch." 

"Discoveries such as this do not occur on a regular basis, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have been present," said Girnius, who specializes in early modern German and Dutch art. 

The painting will be on view this month — not in Kansas City, but in Bosch's hometown, s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands. A major retrospective, to mark the 500th anniversary of the artist's death, called Hieronymus Bosch: Visions of Genius opens February 13 at the Noordbrabants Museum

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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