Cutting the Stone

Cutting the Stone

Cutting the Stone
Artist Hieronymus Bosch
Year c. 1494 or later
Type Oil on board
Dimensions 48 cm × 35 cm (19 in × 14 in)
Location Museo del Prado, Madrid

Cutting the Stone, also called The Extraction of the Stone of Madness or The Cure of Folly, is a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, displayed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, completed around 1494 or later.

The painting depicts the extraction, by a man wearing a funnel hat, of the stone of madness, a "keye" (modern Dutch: kei) (in English a "stone" or "bulb") from a patient's head, using trepanation.[1] In the painting Bosch has exchanged the traditional "stone" as the object of extraction with the bulb of a flower. Another flower is on the table.

The Gothic inscription reads

Meester snyt die keye ras
Myne name Is lubbert Das

(in English: "Master, cut away the stone
my name is Lubbert Das").

Lubbert Das was a comical (foolish) character in Dutch literature.


It is possible that the flower hints that the doctor is a charlatan as does the funnel hat. The woman balancing a book on her head is thought by Skemer to be a satire of the Flemish custom of wearing amulets made out of books and scripture, a pictogram for the word phylactery.[2] Otherwise, she is thought to depict folly.

Foucault, in his History of Madness, says "Bosch's famous doctor is far more insane than the patient he is attempting to cure, and his false knowledge does nothing more than reveal the worst excesses of a madness immediately apparent to all but himself."

Attributed works

This painting, and others by Bosch, were an inspiration to the works of the musicians Wire. On their 1987 album The Ideal Copy, they included the track "Madman's Honey" which included the lyric "master cut the stone out, my name is Lubbert Das" — a direct reference to the painting.

The MSX game Don't Cock it Up used this painting for its box art.


  1. ^ Povoledo, Elisabetta (October 27, 2008). "In Rome, a New Museum Invites a Hands-On Approach to Insanity".  
  2. ^ Skemer 2006:24.

Further reading

  • (book on head) Binding Words Textual Amulets in the Middle Ages. Skemer, Don C. PA: Penn State Press, 2006. p. 24, 136n. ISBN 0-271-02722-3.