Bosh invented puzzling symbols to question the world and the puzzle extends to how he presented himself as an artist. We know he took his artistic name from the town where he lived 's-Hertogenbosch.
In the 1960's Bosh's art was seen as mad, druggy and even satanist, but in fact he was a very religious man. He belonged to an association called The Brotherhood of Our Lady. The brotherhood's activities were centered in the medieval statue of Virgin Mary in the church. The brotherhood was an important social network, the measure of Bosh's respectability is that its members were mostly magistrates, clergy and nobility. They did good deeds in the town, like paying for hospital beds for the poor, they provided paintings for the church done by Bosh, all lost now, probably burned during religious wars after Bosh's death. The brotherhood's membership extended all over Europe, up to very high levels of power, it was through these connections that Bosh got his clients.
Here he is, his real name was Hieronymus van Aken, born around 1450. In this self portrait, he is in his 60's .
But other self portraits by Bosh are much less realistic. It takes form by strange symbols that have to be worked out.
The name of Bosh's city 's-Hertogenbosch, means the The Duke's Woods. Bosh born in that town, gave himself that word as his name - Bosh, bosh equals woods. Bosh was very interested in identity, so he draws a self portrait, a portrait of his artistic self that he had constructed, a very strange picture that combines images and words in a weird mix.
The human soul, what really goes on back there?
Bosh's symbolic self portraits were about "seeing" , his sense of art was peculiarly psychological to use artistic inventions to penetrate where people usually did not want to go.
One of the most famous symbols of The Garden of Earthly Delights is this, hollowed out human being ... with tree trunks for legs ... this is Bosh, the tree-man, seeing in the darkness. Bosh is in the picture.