Palazzo Ducale

Doge's Palace


ROOM 3 – Cardinal Domenico Grimani

Jheronimus Bosch and Venice
Venice, Palazzo Ducale, Doge’s Apartment
February 18 – June 4, 2017


ROOM 3 – Cardinal Domenico Grimani

The second protagonist of the exhibition is the fascinating Domenico Grimani (1461-1523), a scion of a noble Venetian family, humanist, collector and cardinal. He cultivated a wide range of interests from classical to Hebrew studies, from philosophy to theology, and from the new spirituality that emerged in the wake of Devotio moderna to collecting.

According to the written memoirs of Marcantonio Michiel (1521), Domenico Grimani owned an exceptional series of Flemish and German paintings, including three works by Jheronimus Bosch.

At first glance, the subjects of the paintings described by Michiel do not seem to coincide with those of the works now preserved in Venice, but there are good reasons to assume that the panels do indeed come from the Grimani collection.

The Cardinal’s collection was truly vast, and to understand and illustrate the variety of his interests, we display some examples of ancient Greek sculpture and the famous Grimani Breviary, a masterpiece of Flemish miniaturist art.

Within the “microcosm” of the cardinal’s collection, with their myriad details of difficult interpretation, the three works by Bosch might almost have served as ‘conversation pieces’: artistic works providing the basis for lively, curious and learned discussions along the lines of the typically Renaissance discorso or discourse.


Daniel van Bomberghen: a multifaceted Fleming in Venice

It was probably the Flemish merchant and entrepreneur Daniel van Bomberghen who spotted Bosch’s paintings in the studio of the artist shortly after the latter’s passing in August 1516, and who may have proposed their acquisition by Cardinal Grimani.

Van Bomberghen came from a family of traders, specializing mainly in textiles and tapestries. After he moved to Venice around 1515, he ventured into the publishing business printing texts in Hebrew and Aramaic, becoming the city’s foremost specialist in this field.

It is fair to assume that it was in this capacity that van Bomberghen came into contact with Domenico Grimani; the link bringing them together may well have been the Jewish savant Abrahàm ben Meir de Balmes, the cardinal’s personal physician, who was part of van Bomberghen’s team as a translator.

Van Bomberghen’s ‘clan’ also included the de Renialme family, who were also Flemish traders. Cornelis de Renialme may have been van Bomberghen’s partner in the Bosch transaction.