For today’s blogpost, we’re bringing it back to the 16th century. Specifically to 16th century Europe. Hieronymus Bosch was from the Netherlands and although he is from northern Europe, his work circulated around the entire continent.
I don’t want this post to be a history lesson on Hieronymus Bosch. Instead I am going to focus on one particular painting from Bosch and explain its significance and details.
Garden of Earthly Delights
This painting is currently housed at the Prado museum in Madrid, Spain. This is where I first laid eyes on the panel piece. In real life it is absolutely stunning. It was one of those paintings where people just stop and crowd around for 15-20 minutes at a time.
The painting was originally made as an altarpiece paneling. It depicts heaven on the left panel, earth on the center panel, and hell on the right panel. These types of paintings were generally used to explain certain aspects of religion, in this particular case it is to represent humanity and the after life.
It is interesting that Bosch only included three human figures on the heaven panel. I believe it is supposed to be Adam, Eve, and God. I think it is interesting th
at no mortal humans are included.
The earth panel shows all of the sin happening in the natural world. It is over crowded, people are all over one another. It is a chaotic place.
To top the chaos on earth, hell is depicted as a crazy, on fire, really strange place of suffering. There are strange beings all around, such as a pair of ears with a blade in between, half of a shell-like body, a bird man, etc.
This was finished in 1515. Just think about that. How crazy is it that something this bold was created 500 years ago. There are people having sex, killing each other, and being tortured. This was a time where it wasn’t even acceptable to portray nudity unless done so on Greek gods.
Plenty of artists took inspiration from Bosch, including Salvador Dali. Bosch’s work is so bold and unique that it is not difficult to pick out his admirers.
If you are interested in learning about more specific aspects of the painting, BBC has a more in depth observation of the painting.