The Garden of Earthly Delights
Artist Hieronymus Bosch
Date ca. 1480-1515
Movement Northern Renaissance
Medium Oil on panel
Dimensions center 7’2.5″ x 6’4.5” (center panel), 7’2.5” x 3’2” (each wing)
Housed at Museo del Prado, Madrid
Some believe this to have been commissioned by Count Henry III of Nassau as a secular piece. The left wing appears to be a recounting of Creation, with the Lord introducing Adam to Eve in a fantastic landscape within which exotic creatures roam; the central panel is filled with humans in harmonious existence with massive plants and animals; to the right is what some believe to be Hell, in which humans are tormented by animals. Given the elevated and atmospheric perspective, the viewer feels omnipotent. The meaning of this work is hotly debated—some scholars believe it be a warning against earthy desires; others, given its fantastic elements, see it as a world in which the Original Sin was never committed.
A crystal globe with the Earth emerging from the waters comprises the closed panels; God watches from outside and above, while an inscription from Psalm 33 reads: “For he spoke and it came to pass; he commanded it and it stood forth”. Some view this as the world during the time of the great flood, while others see the third day of Creation.