Two Witches Hieronymus Bosch Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Artist Bosch captures two old women in this relatively simple sketch which was produced from pen with brown ink on paper

Many of Hieronymus Bosch's remaining drawings are not in great condition, such is the fragility of this medium. For this sketch you will need to look closely to see the key details, such as an old lady on the right using a walking stick. The clothing is much the same for each figure, with a headscarf, dress and an apron.

The lady on the left is titled as the Woman Spinning and appears to be holding both a spindle and also a distaff. Such objects would have been much clearer at the time of Bosch's career, but recent centuries have taken their toll on some of his artworks that were not protected effectively. On occasions, there were artworks not attributed to him until only recently, and these were not looked after prior to their true value being discovered.

This is part of a series known as a Recto Verso, meaning an artwork placed on both sides of the canvas medium, which in this case is paper. Both drawings were completed approximately 1490-1505 and the opposing side to the depiction of two women is made up of a fox and cockerel. Most have concluded these to have been study drawings, probably for individual characters from some of his larger oil paintings. (Foxes were most famously captured by Franz Marc, whilst Pablo Picasso gave us an impressive portrait of a rooster.)

This drawing on the back is not considered significant and also is in poor condition. Perhaps it was seen as less important by the artist, ensuring he left the paper left on that side. Study drawings for full figure or facial portraits have been completed by all major Renaissance and Baroque artists as a way of perfecting their ability within this challenging genre. Besides Bosch, it is worth researching Albrecht Durer drawings as well as those completed by Diego Velazquez and Sandro Botticelli.

The attribution is defined by the small signature of Bosch which sits in the bottom left corner of this sketch. This was common of this artist and there would have been other checks made in order to ensure its validity.