Hieronymus’ The Garden of Earthly Delights

Triptych oil painting or by its modern name known as The Garden of Earthly Delights is as seen by some as a masterpiece by Hieronymus Bosch. It was painted quite late in his life, between the ages of 40 to 60 in the year 1490 to 1510. Since 1939, this painting is housed in Madrid at the Museo del Pardo.

Unknown Intentions & Interpretations

Not much is known now about the life of the artist, his interpretations or even his intention when he painted the fleshy most worldly indulgence, called by some an evocation of sexual joy. The central part of the three-panel painting led to several different interpretations over many centuries, which lasted and continued into the 20th century where art historians remain divided, some see it as a panorama of paradise, other as a moral warning. Art experts such as Beagle says it is an erotic imbalance transforming viewers to a place filled with intoxicated air.

Several Paintings Wrapped into One

The exterior of The Garden of Earthly Delights displays the world the artist existed in during the creation of the artwork itself. When the wings of the triptych are closed, the panels on the outer side are visible and the painting rendered in grey-green can be seen.

Left, Right & Centre Panels

Expert of art proposed that the outer panels were used by Bosch to originally establish the biblical setting for that of the inner elements and that the outer images were painted first. Known as the Joining of Adam and Eve the left panel’s scene is that of the Garden of Eden. The painting allows viewers to gain insight into how the painter sees Adam as he wakes up and finds Eve’s wrist in the hand of God. In this panel, the appearance of God is in a younger form as the others.

The centre panel consists of a fusion of different scenes and images, these include a water-bound globe adorned by figures that are hybrid or fantastic while the garden gives this painting its name. Female and male nudes are present in the garden where fruit trees suggest it is paradise. The figures in the painting are engaged in all kinds of activities including sports, group and couple activities with sexual curiosity. While some artist sees the centre panel as the playground of corruption other calls it the centre of eroticism.

In the middle-ages, lust and sexuality were seen as the indication of the fall from grace of humanity, the left panel is where it starts, the middle shows the penalty. In many paintings, erotic connotations are depicted as musical instruments, especially in the time period of the art of Bosch, which was also when the moralising sources such as lust where often called the music of the flesh.

Triptychs painted by Bosch includes the Saint Gregory’s Mass, Adoration of the Magic, The Creation of the World, The Last Judgement, and Hermit Saints Triptych.