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emphasize moral, or more often immoral, behavior in the earthly realm instead of salvation in the afterlife...

Bosch’s​ ​​Garden​ ​of​ ​Earthly​ ​Delights

While other artists focused on strictly and blatantly religious iconography, Bosch’s work contained much more secular settings to portray themes of virtues and vices.

By Brittany R. O’Dowd

1490-1510 CE

In one of his most famous triptychs, the Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch uses a linear and chronological order to represent a gradual fall of man into sin. In a world where ‘bad’ has existed in small amounts since the creation of the world, man grows to indulge in earthly delights and physical pleasures, which over time leads to his eternal suffering and the loss of control over that which he once ruled. While many other great triptychs of the fifteenth century utilize the three separate panels and the outside image as just that – three or four separate images united thinly by a theme – Bosch presents the images in a linear narrative to tell his story.

Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights consists of four images. When the panels are all closed, the front of the triptych shows the viewer Bosch’s Creation, a gray-tone image in which God sits at the top left corner, watching over the world encased in a glass globe on the third day of creation, just as plants are beginning to come to life. Once opened, there are three additional images. The very left panel, Paradise, shows the sixth day, when God created man and woman. Specifically, in this scene, he is presenting Eve to Adam, as animals run around in the rest of Paradise. The central panel is Imaginary Paradise, in which a plethora of nude figures ride animals, eat fruits, and run around in general carefree celebration and acts of passion. The right panel, Hell, shows figures being eternally punished in all sorts of ways by animals and strange hybrid creatures, with a city just visible in the background through the dark of the night.

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The Netherlands | currently held in Spain

How far back?

Point in Timeline 86%

2020 | Present