Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights (1503). Central Panel: Garden of Earthly Delights

Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights (1503) Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain. Central Panel: Garden of Earthly Delights

The central panel of Bosch's triptych is the Garden of Earthly Delights. This is meant to stand in for the earthly world that is full of the temptation and vice that pervade society. After the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden humans were left in the world with the new ideas of shame and sin and, as is blatantly portrayed by Bosch, loved both of these things. I will include more details for this work because its brilliance is in the detail and symbolism. The idea of the central panel is to depict the descent of man into sin. Lust is shown to be the cause of Man's downfall. The figures cavort in all levels of undress and sexual intercourse and have seemingly no shame in their actions or deeds. Some of the scenes are more graphic than others and some have more hidden meanings that are lost to us. It must be kept in mind that these are often proverbs or well-known idioms from the Netherlands and Netherlandish art around the turn of the fourteenth century.

This is a work that would take years of study to understand even a small bit about any one part. I will not attempt to explain this work to you because I think that it is something to be experienced in one's own way. If you have any specific questions about a scene or what some small piece of imagery might mean, please email me!

Enjoy the visual orgy of Man's descent into sin!

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