In 1463, the Dutch city of ’s-Hertogenbosch burned to the ground in a catastrophic fire that destroyed more than 4000 homes. I think 13 year old Hieronymus Bosch witnessed the blaze, and interpreted the nightmare of destruction as holy judgement on mankind’s corruption.
I have to clarify that this is speculation, because Hieronymus Bosch wrote no letters and left no journal. Scholars disagree on when he was born, and there’s only a single sketch of a pensive old man that might be a self portrait. We only know he became ferociously religious, his macabre depictions of a horrifying afterlife earning him a respected position in the Catholic confraternity The Illustrious Brotherhood of Our Blessed Lady. From this position of clerical authority he brought the religious narratives of his day to life in vivid detail.
Bosch’s warped imagination was met with massive acclaim. He was commissioned to create altarpieces in the Netherlands and abroad. His work was so influential that many painters of the day imitated his beautiful detail and grotesque themes, creating a body of work whose attribution is debated to this day.
Reed Enger, "Hieronymus Bosch, Welcome to Hell," in Obelisk Art History, Published June 05, 2015; last modified November 08, 2022, http://www.arthistoryproject.com/artists/hieronymus-bosch/.