The Garden of Earthly Delights

This is Hieronymous Bosch’s most famous work. Using the same format as The Hay Waggon, the work is a triptych, and also a morality tale. The left hand panel shows the Creation, the middle one the Garden of Earthly Delights, and on the right, we see Hell. Bosch’s imagination reaches extraordinary heights here in this picture. It seems like the forefather of the Surrealism in which Dali was to play such a predominant role in the 20th century.

The painting is full of real and imaginary plants and animals, taken from the Bestiary, a medieval compendium that described plants and animals alongside moralizing lessons. Figures ride naked around a fountain, and various scenes seem to depict an apotheosis of lust. Humankind has succumbed to sin, and one character - the only one seen fully dressed in the central scene - is standing at the entrance to a cave in the lower right hand corner, pointing towards Woman as the guilty party. This is in line with the common disdain for women at the time. In Hell, humans are subjected to terrible harm from monstrous animals. At the top, the depictions of fire are reminiscent of those in the Hay Waggon, although in this work the torments of the damned are far more sophisticated. The same musical instruments are seen here and, in a terrifying manner, contribute to their suffering. It seems that Bosch had no sympathy for either women or music.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Catalina Serrano Romero
English translation (a) Thisbe Burns