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The Pedlar

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  • Sydney Sheehan asked

    I am writing an article featuring Jheronimus Bosch's Pedlar and I was hoping you might be able to share the provenance with me?
    Sydney Sheehan

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Hi Sydney, The Pedlar was acquired by the museum in 1931 with the support of the Vereniging Rembrandt and several private art lovers (D.G. Van Beuningen, F.W. Koenigs and J.P. van der Schilden. The panel was bought from art dealer Jacques Goudstikker. He acquired it from Paul Cassirer. Two previous owners are known: Albert Figdor (Baden 1843-Vienna 1927) and Théodor Schiff. I assume that you know that the painting was assembled from the outside wings of a triptych. We do not know the middle panel, but the inside wings have been cut to three separate paintings: 1) the Ship of Fools at the Louvre, 2) the Allegory of Gluttony and Lust at Yale University Art Gallery and 3) Death and the Miser at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Good luck with your paper and kind regards, Els

  • Silvia asked

    I'm writting an article and I would like to use the painting "The Pedlar" of Jheronimus Bosch. Do I need to ask about the copyright?
    Thank you very much
    Kind regards,

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Hi Silvia, best to read all about image requests on this webpage https://www.boijmans.nl/en/image-requests. All best, Lisa Heinis.

  • Mark asked


    I notice that there is the sign of the swan outside the tavern. Is the swam a reference to the brotherhood which Bosch belonged to? Is he criticising his brotherhood meeting house as a den of debauchery? Thank you.

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Hi Mark, thanks for asking. In the Middle Ages a prostitute was called a 'swaentje' (Dutch for little swan), which would be the simple explanation for the sign at the inn. In the past however a few art historians had the same idea as you have now, that Bosch intended to be critical towards the religious brotherhood. There is an interesting article to be found at the internet by Th. van Baaren entitled: 'De betekenis van de zwaan in het werk van Jeroen Bosch' (The Meaning of the Swan in Hieronymus Bosch' Work). Unfortunately it is in Dutch, but it says that the brotherhood expected to be able to make use of Bosch's talents for free or for little money, but never gave him a real big assignment. Therefor Bosch, who probably did not belong to the inner circle, was rather critical. I hope this is helpful. Kind regards, Els.

  • Sankalp asked

    I have a different interpretation. If the pedlar is so prepared with his bag, spoon, dagger, purse etc then why are his shoes mis-matched ? This makes me think that we could have left in a hurry. Though it was a pre-meditated move to go away. That makes me believe that the house in the background is his own. Its very early in the morning indicated by the owl in the tree (night bird) and maybe by the pigs feeding. Also the old man peeing beside the house could indicate early morning. The man might have wanted to sneak out of the house without a sound but something went wrong. The family/housemates got alerted. One of them barely got time to come till the door and just peaking form the window. The boy stopping the girl (possibly the son stopping the mother) from trying to stop the man. The man might have packed everything the last night but in the last moment, in a hurry he just wore any shoes he could find and left. Possibly he is running form his responsibilities (broken house, dysfunctional family). Maybe he is cause of all misery that the son feels its better that he goes away. The emotional mother irrespective of all things would still want her man to be with her.

    Open to criticism. Please find inconsistencies to rule out this interpretation.

    PS: This is my favourite piece of art !

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Dear Sankalp,
    Nice to hear that you like this artwork so much. Thank you for sharing your interpretation with us. Technical research tells us that the painting originally covered the exterior of the wings of a triptych. It looks very similar to the exterior of the Haywain-Triptych. This is why scholars think it has also a similar iconography. Many scholars have written about the interpretation of paintings of Jheronimus Bosch. You can find literature about this subject in our library. You can also watch this movie about the interpretation of this painting: https://www.arttube.nl/videos/de-marskramer-in-close-up.
    Kind regards,

  • Mira asked

    Hi there, is this painting also known as 'The Wayfarer'?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Hi Mia,
    Yes, it is! The painting has several titles, but 'The Pedlar' is the one currently used by Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.
    Best wishes,

  • Bettina Semoff asked

    after my litterary researches (according to Stefan Fischer, who wrote in German a Monographie about Bosch, 2016) the middle panel was the 'marriage of kana' , also by H.Bosch. Could this be possible? Thanks, yours B.S., Munich-Germany

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Dear Bettina,
    Indeed, some scholars believe that ‘the Pedlar’ was part of a larger whole that included ‘the Marriage of Kana’. This idea was first brought to the fore by Johannes Hartau in an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in 2001. Hartau later expanded his argument in the article 'Das neue Triptychon von Hieronymus Bosch als Allegorie über den unnützen Reichtum', in Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 68 (2005), pp. 305-338. Our curator of old Paintings and Sculptures Friso Lammertse is, however, not convinced by this interpretation.
    ‘The Marriage of Kana’ painting that is referred to is not the painting with the same name in the collection of Boijmans van Beuningen, which is a copy executed after Bosch’ death, presumably after a lost original.
    Kind regards,

  • Jane asked

    What does the skinned cat hanging on the wicker basket mean?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Hi Jane, thanks for your question! As with all the objects in this painting, we suspect certain symbolic meanings, but we can never be completely sure. The skinned cat could stand for women of easy virtue (the man being the cat hunter / womanizer) but pedlars are also known to sell cat skins, so it could also simply be attributed to the main subject being a pedlar. Best, Rianne

  • Yang asked

    I've heard that this work was once exterior panels for a triptych with wings known as 'Ship of Fools' and 'Death and Miser' in the past. Is it an official conclusion of scientific analysis?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Dear Yang, yes this is true. We know that the inside of the left panel showed the now seperated 'Ship of Fools' (Louvre, Paris) and 'Allegory of Intemperance' (Yale University), and the inside of the right panel showed 'Death and the Miser' (National Gallery of Art, Washington). On the back of these panels 'The Pedlar' was shown. What was depicted on the center panel is unknown but it is highly likely that this panel had a religious theme. Best, Rianne Schoonderbeek


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More information
  • How did it get here?

This vagabond or pedlar with mismatched shoes is symbolic of man on his path through life. He is a kind of 'Everyman' a popular late 15th century moral tale. He represents the 'homo viator', the pilgrim who goes through life weighed down by the baggage of his earthly existence. He suffers his lot along a path full of temptations.

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Collection book

Collection book Order


Title The Pedlar
Material and technique Oil on panel
Object type
Painting > Painting > Two-dimensional object > Art object
Location This object is in storage
Dimensions Height 71 cm
Length Error: 70,6 is not a valid BCD value cm
Artists Painter: Jheronimus Bosch
Accession number 1079 (OK)
Credits Purchased with the support of Rembrandt Association, D.G. van Beuningen, F.W. Koenings and J.P. van der Schilden, 1931
Department Old Masters
Acquisition date 1931
Creation date in circa 1500
Internal exhibitions Van Eyck tot Bruegel (1994)
The Collection Enriched (2011)
De ontdekking van het dagelijks leven - van Bosch tot Bruegel (2015)
De collectie als tijdmachine (2017)
BABEL - Oude meesters terug uit Japan / Old Masters Back from Japan (2018)
Lievelingen (2024)
External exhibitions Jheronimus Bosch – Visioenen van een genie (2016)
Collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen – Bruegel’s ‘The Tower of Babel’ and Great 16th Century Masters (2017)
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen @ Rijksmuseum (2023)
Research Show research Alma
Geographical origin Northern Netherlands > The Netherlands > Western Europe > Europe

All about the artist

Jheronimus Bosch

Den Bosch circa 1450 - Den Bosch 1516

Jeroen Bosch was probably born around 1450 in Den Bosch as Jheronimus van Aken. When his fame as artist had spread throughout Europe, he adopted the name of the...

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