The Bosch Project at Petworth
Over the winter months our Conservation Team carry out checks and deep-cleaning of the interiors and collection at Petworth. In March 2018 as part of this conservation work 'The Adoration of the Magi' by Bosch in the Petworth House collection was examined under controlled conditions by a team of Dutch forensic art scientists from the Bosch Project.
Please be aware this painting is now on loan and will return to Petworth at a later date.
Hieronymus Bosch's 'The Adoration of the Magi' depicts the adoration of the Christ child by the Three Kings Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior. It is believed that the Antichrist is also present in the guise of a fourth king, semi naked with an unusual headpiece. The image currently on display in the Somerset Room is a one of several variants of the central panel of the ‘Epiphany’ triptych in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.
As part of the ongoing conservation work the painting was removed from its frame and carefully secured before undergoing various tests, including infra-red and x-ray scans, and extremely high definition photographs. These tests highlighted several interesting elements within the Petworth copy.
The Owl and Mouse
In the top left corner of the stable, placed within a hole in the wall, is an owl with a dead mouse. Bosch liked to include owls in a large number of his works. What is interesting is that though the North Star, a central feature in the story of the birth of Christ, is not in all the copies, the owl is. During the mid to late 1400s when the painting was completed, owls were considered to be an ill omen, representing tombs, Satan and dark places. However, owls are thought to be a lighthearted touch and considered to be a signature motif within Bosch's works.