Lori Pond recreated this detail from a Hieronymus Bosch painting—a cherub holding a fish—using real-world objects and people.

Recreating Hieronymus Bosch

By Alyssa Coppelman

Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings teem with unusual figures. The closer you look, the more fantastical details you’ll see. Artist Lori Pond became so obsessed with those details that she recreated them as a new series, Bosch Redux. To produce the series, she brought in a prosthetics designer and taxidermist for props, scoured swap meets and friends’ closets for costumes, and then photographed the staged tableaus. That’s right—these bizarre new images are photos, not paintings. 

Bosch Redux 1.0, from The Last Judgment. Copyright Lori Pond.

Bosch Redux 1.0, from The Last Judgment

During a visit years ago to Madrid’s Prado Museum, Pond saw The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch’s famous early 16th-century painting, for the first time. Her reaction to seeing it in person was unexpected: she burst into tears.

Last year, Pond’s interest in Bosch was rekindled when she bought Taschen’s massive tome of his complete works. She recreated details from three paintings: The Garden of Earthly Delights, The Temptation of St. Anthony, and The Last Judgment. “I scrutinized the work carefully and found innumerable little tableaus of action,” she says, “so I decided to isolate one or two characters at a time and recreate these very small details as the focus of new photographic works.”

To recreate these details from the original paintings, Pond bought props online, in antique stores, and at swap meets, and friends donated old Halloween costumes. She also called upon a circle of creatives for help: “I hired a prosthetics designer to create the iconic ‘Bosch snout’ and legs and tail in one image, and a propmaster to make the life-size boat in Bosch Redux 4.0. My taxidermy teacher gave me some crows’ feet, and I got my friends not only to model for me, but also to help with the prop building, wardrobe, and makeup that went into every image. Most resulting photographs are made in camera, apart from some exceptions when I didn’t want to string up a woman in a harp or couldn’t find ears or birds bigger than a human.”

Bosch Redux  4.0, from The Garden of Earthly Delights. Copyright Lori Pond.

Bosch Redux 4.0, from The Garden of Earthly Delights

Though Pond builds and photographs as much as possible for this work, she doesn’t scorn software manipulation. “I fully abide by the maxim ‘A photograph isn’t a photograph until it goes through Photoshop,’” she says. “I use Photoshop CC 2015 and Bridge CC to color correct, crop, organize my bodies of work, make detailed selections, apply masks—really, the sky’s the limit with these two programs. I like working with tools that have limitless ways to facilitate my absolute best creativity.”

To achieve the beautiful effect of what’s old is new again, Pond employed textures, backgrounds, and other small details from the original paintings. “I used Photoshop to select the craquelure from a public-domain, high-res file of The Garden of Earthly Delights and applied it using blending modes.” These samples of the original paintings appear in 4.0 (the background texture and the heads floating above the boat), 5.0 (the figures to the right of harp), 10.0 (the bodies under the ears), and 11.0 (the background texture).

Bosch Redux  5.0, from The Garden of Earthly Delights. Copyright Lori Pond.

Bosch Redux 5.0, from The Garden of Earthly Delights

Bosch Redux  10.0, from The Garden of Earthly Delights. Copyright Lori Pond.

Bosch Redux  10.0, from The Garden of Earthly Delights

Pond went to great lengths to bring attention to Bosch’s work. She explains her motivation: “Hieronymus Bosch was a mystery. No one even knows if Bosch was his real name, or exactly when he died. There are many theories as to why he created the surrealistic characters and scenes in his paintings. Some art historians say his work is based on Dutch proverbs. At least one art critic thinks medieval and Renaissance ‘dream books’ (in which God is posited to bring dreams to humans to teach us life lessons) are the influences for his work. Did Bosch read these books and then visualize them with his paintings? Who knows—that’s the magic in his work and what I’m trying to bring to new viewers—to let them make up their own minds what the interpretation might be.”

Bosch Redux 11.0, from The Garden of Earthly Delights. Copyright Lori Pond.

Bosch Redux 11.0, from The Garden of Earthly Delights

Lori Pond’s work will be part of a group show in January at MuzeuMM, in Los Angeles, with a reception on January 9 from 6 to 9 PM.  

January 5, 2015

All images copyright Lori Pond.