Hieronymus Bosch was born c. 1450 in the town of 's-Hertogenbosch (Bois-le-Duc) in northern Brabant. His true name was Joen or Jeroen van Aken. Both his grandfather Jan van Aken (d. 1454) and his father, Anthonius van Aken (d. c. 1478), were painters, and we may assume that he received his first instruction from his father.
Documents offer only meager information about his career. Sometime before 1481 Bosch married Aleyt van der Meervenne, a woman of wealth and property. Bosch's oeuvre consists of approximately thirty paintings, none of which is dated. In 1486/1487 Bosch is listed for the first time as a member of the religious confraternity of the Brotherhood of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwe-Broederschap)
and he executed paintings for the Brotherhood as well as designs for a stained glass window for the chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John in 's-Hertogenbosch. The artist had a workshop of some sort, for it is recorded that in 1503-1504 Bosch's assistants (knechten) were paid for painting coats-of-arms. There are other references to Bosch's artistic activity in 's-Hertogenbsoch. Perhaps the most important of these is a commission in 1504 from Philip the Fair, Duke of Burgundy, for a large altarpiece of the Last Judgment. The painting no longer exists. It has recently been shown that The Garden of Earthly Delights hung in the Brussels palace of Hendrik III of Nassau by 1517 and was probably commissioned by him. This provides important evidence that Bosch's paintings were ordered by learned secular patrons as well as by religious institutions.
Hieronymous Bosch died in 1516; on 9 August of that year his funeral mass was attended by members of the Brotherhood of Our Lady. [Hand, John Oliver, and Martha Wolff. Early Netherlandish Painting. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1986: 15.]