The Garden of Earthly Delights - Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain
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El jardín de las Delicias de El Bosco

The Interior Panel of the Garden of Earthly Delights


The Garden of Earthly Delights is Hieronymus Bosch’s most complex and enigmatic creation dating 1490-1500. The overall theme is the fate of humanity, where Bosch visualizes this concept in a very explicit manner in the centre panel of the triptych.



In order to analyze the work’s meaning the content of each panel must be identified. On the outer faces of the triptych Bosch depicted in grisaille the Third Day of the Creation of the World, when the waters were separated from the earth and the earthly Paradise (Eden) created.



Jheronimus Bosch 1


Hieronymus Bosch - Dutch (Born, 1450 – August 9, 1516) was a Dutch/Netherlandish draughtsman and painter from Brabant. He is widely considered one of the most notable representatives of Early Netherlandish painting school. His work is known for its fantastic imagery, detailed landscapes, and illustrations of religious concepts and narratives. Within his lifetime his work was collected in the Netherlands, Austria, and Spain, and widely copied, especially his macabre and nightmarish depictions of hell.


PARADISE - A Contemporary Animated Interpretation of The Garden of Earthly Delights 


Hieronymus Bosch, famous for his fantastical, often monstrous, hybrid creatures, might in some ways be seen as a forerunner of the Surrealists. 



The surrealistic nightmares of 15th-century painter Hieronymus Bosch continue to resonate with us. But do these scenes of Heaven and Hell emerge purely from the artist’s imagination and culture, or did he have a little help from a psychedelic friend?


cover panels The Garden of Earthly Delights The exterior shutters

The Cover Pannels of the Garden of Earthly Delights


However, while the Surrealists played in the realms of dreams and the unconscious, Bosch was steeped in the religiosity of his age and the worlds he conjured up demonstrated what were believed to be the very real, and sobering, consequences of earthly behavior. Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights is a triptych, meaning that it consists of three parts—a central panel with one hinged wing on either side. Closed, the triptych depicts a translucent sphere encompassing earth, sky, and sea. The scene, rendered in monochromatic shades of grey (a style known as grisaille), is thought by some to represent creation. Others have linked it to the great flood by which God cleanses the world at the time of Noah. The interior of the triptych is the subject of even greater contention.


Center Panel

The Center Pannel of the Garden of Earthly Delights


The wings of Bosch’s triptych open to reveal a colorful interior filled to the point of bursting with strange architecture, unnatural landforms, and all types of hybrid creatures.  In the Fall of 2016 and as part of the 500 anniversary celebration of the death of Bosch, a Ballet Company headed by Marie Chouinard in co production with the Hieronymus Bosch 500 Foundation (Netherlands), created and unveiled a dance tribute to Bosch's surrealistic spiritual work. 



In the foreground of the left hand panel, God the Father stands between the naked figures of Adam and Eve, surrounded by various flora and fauna. This is, no doubt, the Garden of Eden, though the scene is not without a dark side. In the distance, an animal tears at the flesh of his prey while black birds circle around.


 Center of Panel


The central panel of the triptych is the one from which the piece takes its current title. This “Garden of Earthly Delights” features hordes of nude men and women cavorting in a landscape that is home to enormous birds, oversized fruit, and bizarre vegetation.


                              Detail center                Apple w couple inside                 Center of Panel


The scene is lively, chaotic, and orgiastic in tone. Although the uninhibited behavior of the figures seems at first glance to be lascivious, in fact, it is ambiguous. Despite the many naked congregations and couples Bosch places in the image, there are no sexual acts explicitly portrayed. Scholars have debated the meaning of this central image, arguing that it represents a vision of innocent pleasure, a cauldron of sinful excess, and everything in between.


Hell detail woman w hat    


The leftmost panel of the work is, paradoxically, the most disturbing and the least enigmatic. Here are depicted the horrors of Hell, a place where sinners are skewered by giant hares, tortured on oversized instruments, and ingested by a grotesque insect-like being, only to be excreted moments later.


Hell details


Whatever the meaning of the triptych as a whole, Bosch reminds the viewer that damnation is a very possible (perhaps the only possible) outcome in this corrupt world.

 El jardín de las Delicias de El Bosco


Although The Garden of Earthly Delights takes a form frequently used for altarpieces in the sixteenth century, documentation suggests that it was housed in a secular context, probably commissioned by a wealthy patron. Henry III of Nassau, a governor of the Habsburgs in the Netherlands, has been suggested as one potential owner.