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The garden of earthly delights

Painting, 1500-th , 220×390 cm

Description of the artwork «The garden of earthly delights»

"The garden of earthly delights" his best – known work of the great Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch. The first mention of the triptych refers to the 1517 year: "the Garden..." appears in the inventory of the property of the family of Nassau in Brussels. Later, along with many other works of Bosch, the painting was moved to Madrid and was in the collection of the Spanish king Philip II. In 1936 year, with the beginning of the civil war in Spain, "the Garden of earthly delights" with the aim of conservation was transferred to the Prado, in one of the upstairs galleries of the Museum it is presented now.

"The garden of earthly delights" is preserved better than other triptychs by Bosch. It is characterized by uniform light distribution across the surface, no cut-off modeling, accurate portrayal of shapes, vivid and rich color.

From 2014, the year "the Garden of earthly delights" along with three works of Bosch, became the subject of contention between the Prado and the Museum of the Royal collections, filed an official request for the return of these works in the Royal collection (read more here).

External doors

External doors of the "Garden of earthly delights" as in all other Bosch triptychs (1, 2, 3), executed in grisaille technique – so-called form of painting where the artist works with shades of one color. In this case, used a greenish-gray scale. The artistic effect is caused by the unexpected transition by the viewer, from monochrome and devoid of human presence to the outer flaps multi-figured and colorful shutters interior.

A huge translucent sphere symbolizes the moment of creation the world as described in Genesis – the first of the books of the old Testament: the creation of the God of heaven and earth, the separation of light from darkness, and waters from the firmament. The Creator shows in the gaps between clouds in the upper left. Interestingly, in the same historical period, when he created "the Garden of Earthly delights," Michelangelo painted the Sistine chapel ceiling. Michelangelo The Creator presents the image of the great sculptor by giving the form of the primordial chaos, and the Bosch He, in accordance with the biblical text, creates the world without hands, and word. From sitting on the throne of the Creator God in the hands of the book, and next Bosch puts the words of the Psalm: "For He spoke and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast" (PS.32:9).

Inner fold: interpretation, evaluation and meanings

Between the garden of Eden (left wing) and hell (right) is The pleasure garden – the image of the earthly world, which gave the name to the whole triptych.

Unique panorama created by the imagination of Bosch and seriously violates traditional Christian iconography, tried to explain from the standpoint of astrology and alchemy, philosophy and numerology; it looking for allegories and symbols, prophecies and hidden meanings.

In the twentieth century, after the discovery of the unconscious Freud, the interest in half-forgotten by the time Bosch has flashed with new force. Theorist of surrealism André Breton insisted that "Garden of earthly delights" and other works of Hieronymus Bosch, in front of us are the phantoms, the nightmares of the unconscious, and the Bosch with his hallucinatory imagination was the first surrealist: under his brush, took the visible reality of the deepest human instincts.

A lot of noise in the time, done the hypothesis criticism Wilhelm Franger. He suggested that the Central part of the triptych "the Garden of earthly delights" is nothing less than the Manifesto of the sect of the Free spirit, Adamites, or, radical movements, collective practice of copulation with the aim to disprove the myth of original sin. Frenger utorial that Bosch belonged to the secret members of the sect. He convincingly argued that the Central part of the triptych is not a satire or a denunciation of sin and "has nothing to do with hypocritical beliefs of the Church". On the contrary: it is rather an idyll, where naked lovers "peacefully frolic in the tranquility of this garden, finding the innocence of plants and animals, and to overwhelm their senses there is nothing but pure jubilation, no hazy bliss". The hypothesis of Fragner, overblown by the press and in tune with the ideas of the sexual revolution of the mid-twentieth century, was very popular among the masses, but scientific confirmation is not found. Serious researchers are convinced that the sect of the Holy spirit the homeland of the artist in Brabant ceased to exist long before the birth of Bosch.

One of the most significant researchers of Bosch Dirk Bax set multiple Parallels between the images of "the Garden of earthly delights" and Dutch folklore and archaic literature. Buck believed that animals, fruits and corals are erotic symbols that were widespread in the time of Bosch in folk songs, Proverbs, slang and idioms. In them the berries and fruits metaphorically meant sexual organs, the fish was considered a phallic symbol, and "gather the fruit" meant intercourse. Around the lake in the Central part of the triptych is moving a whole cavalcade of naked people riding lions, leopards, wild boar, horses and other animals, many of which are in the folklore associated with lust and rude vitality. The notion of riding in the vernacular was a common metaphor for sexual intercourse.

The first ever interpreter of the painting became a scholar monk José de Sigüenza. Triptych placed at the disposal of the Spanish king, and Sigüenza at the time was the first historian and chronicler of the Escorial. Despite unprecedented apotheosis of sensuality embodied by Bosch in the Central part of the triptych, Sigüenza considered "the Garden of earthly delights" preachy picture. He believed, that before us is a collective image of humanity, which is mired in sinful pleasures, gave them the pristine beauty of the lost Paradise. Moreover: de Sigüenza even offered to write the pattern as much as possible the number of copies and distribute them to instruct the believers. Interestingly, the concept of Sigüenza, expressed at the beginning of the XVII century, after many discussions and several centuries of research, is still considered the most relevant.

The idea of pronizannogo of all things sin in "the Garden of earthly delights" brings to their logical extremes modern scholar Linda Harris in the monograph "The secret heresy of Hieronymus Bosch". She believes that the beginning of the dark, the dominant in "the Garden of earthly delights" puts even the image of Jesus. "On the one hand, the Savior taught barring Adam and eve from him. On the other hand, you might think that depicts the devil himself, who plays a pimp of Adam and eve. This is evidenced by some strangeness of the face of Jesus"- says Harris.

Walter Bosing the author of the book "Hieronymus Bosch. Between Hell and Paradise", says that we, modern viewers tend to doubt that Bosch condemns the carnal impulses of his characters: too captivating lines and harmonious colors too choose for them the artist. However, the people of the middle Ages belonged to the material beauty of the much more suspicious, because he constantly taught that the most attractive under the mask hides a sin, but for the pleasure of the body, eternal death. Basing gives an interesting analogy: in the time of Bosch in Holland were very popular figures of ivory. On the one hand, they depicted naked beauties or merged in the arms of the figures of the lovers, but he had only to flip them – and the figures were half-decayed corpses. In this way, the scientists said, and everything that shows viewers Bosch is not real Paradise and its deceptive similarity. Otherwise, it would not have punished in hell, so convincingly depicted on the right leaf boskhovskogo triptych.

On the content and the symbolism of certain images of "Garden zemnih of pleasure read more you can read here.


Author: Anna Yesterday
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Religious scene

Technique: Oil

Materials: Wood

Date of creation: 1500-th

Size: 220×390 cm

Artwork in selections: 101 selections

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