The Garden of Earthly Delights
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jtucker's picture


Garden of Earthly Delights is not a painting for the prudish or the faint of heart.

We are about to embark on a journey into madness. So if the idea of a bird eating humans, defecating them out whole and then forcing them to vomit into a hole in the earth perturbs you, than you best click away. 'Cause that's not even the weirdest thing going on in this painting. Needless to say, few pieces of art have both intrigued and stumped art historians like this sh*tshow by Hieronymus Bosch.

This triptych depicts the three biblical realms of the universe. The left panel portrays the heavenly kingdom and the moment in which God introduced Eve to Adam. The center panel is where the painting gets its name. This is earth before it was cool, and was probably the most happening place in the universe (trust me, you don’t want to miss this party). And finally, the right panel illustrates Hell and the damnation of man. It seems like your standard biblical painting, but take a closer look; you might be surprised to find that the mind of Hieronymus Bosch worked in unusual ways.

This is pretty much the most surreal, hands-down raunchiest orgy I have ever seen. Either Bosch had some weird ass fetishesor he had a very pessimistic outlook on humanity. While no one really knows why Bosch felt the world needed a painting of people humping strawberries, many people have interpreted this painting as a commentary on life’s temptations and the futility of man.

While Garden is overwhelmingly fascinating, I think there may be some educational merit to this piece as well. Many people see art as a tool for both social change and self-reflection. Some potential lessons to be learned from Bosch include but are not limited to:

  • Be your nasty self and let it all hang out
  • It's okay if you want to put a flower up your butt from time to time
  • Bestiality is acceptable at select orgies
  • Premarital sex may not bag you a one way ticket to hell (Woohoo!)

Think you've seen enough? Well Bosch did not stop with these three panels. When closed, the outside of this work depicts the world at the time of the biblical creation, or the moment in which God sent a flood to the earth to cleanse the world after it was consumed by sin. Many see the outside panel as the resolution to the debauchery of the inside.

Is this a commentary on how far humanity has strayed from the righteous path? Possibly. Was Bosch was a bit of a perverted weirdo? Definitely. While this painting may be a warning to viewers that humanity can be seriously messed up, I prefer to take a more optimistic outlook on this piece and see it as a message to the masses: Let your freak flag fly! 

mhoutzager's picture


This perverted painting has charmed its fair share of rock stars and bloggers alike.

When Polish rock band Normalsi used a detail from this painting on the cover of one of their CDs, the CD was banned because the Polish authorities found that: “There are pornographic scenes in the picture that can damage people.”

Two other rock bands were also smitten by Garden of Earthly Delights. Deep Purple used it for the cover of their album "Tetragrammaton", and Pearls Before Swine used it for their album "One Nation Underground."

Staying on the music theme, last but not least, a student at Oklahoma Christian University named Amelia transcribed the music painted on the posterior of one of Bosch's victims in the middle of the rightmost panel, and posted the sound clip on her blog 'chaoscontrolled'. We prefer Deep Purple, but Amelia gets an A for creativity and effort.


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Here is what Trivium says about The Garden of Earthly Delights

A window into Hell.

The Alterpiece Tryptich was an old idea by the time that Heironymus Bosch got ahold of it. Three painted panels in an elaborate frame, often telling a story from right to left. Giotto's Stefaneschi Triptych for St. Peter's cathedral is a good example of what a tryptich should look like — Christ, serene, surrounded by adoring disciples. But Bosch had a different story to tell.

The Garden of Earthly Delights is a folding tryptich, the left and right panels fold inwards, and when closed is shows a meditative image of the world during its creation, painted in the gray-green grisaille common to Netherlandish triptychs of the time. A moment of solemnity before the leaping madness inside is revealed. 

We really don't have to introduce The Garden of Earthly Delights. It's one of the most famous, or infamous artworks in history, and for good reason. Opening the tryptich reveales three panels, on the left, the Garden of Eden, in the center, the titular Garden of Delight, and on the left, Hell. Each panel vibrates with activity — dozens of tiny figures indulge in every possible vice, perversion and torture. It's remarkable. It's a tour-de-force. It's an incredibly imaginative depection of sin and it's extrordinary punishments. Take a look, zoom in, explore.

The Garden of Earthly Delights was so successful in it's time that it spawed imitations by numerious artists. Even today, it's influence can be felt in the work of artists like H.R. Geiger. Bosch worked in a time of extreme religious piety, and he found a loop hole. He created a caution against depravity, that nonetheless gave his viewers a twisted peek into their darkest fantasies. 

Learn more about The Garden of Earthly Delights and other artists at Trivium Art History

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Here is what Wikipedia says about The Garden of Earthly Delights

The Garden of Earthly Delights is the modern title given to a triptych oil painting on oak panel painted by the Early Netherlandish master Hieronymus Bosch, between 1490 and 1510, when Bosch was between 40 and 60 years old. It has been housed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid since the year 1939.

As so little is known of Bosch's life or intentions, interpretations of his intent have ranged from an admonition of worldly fleshy indulgence, to a dire warning on the perils of life's temptations, to an evocation of ultimate sexual joy. The intricacy of its symbolism, particularly that of the central panel, has led to a wide range of scholarly interpretations over the centuries. Twentieth-century art historians are divided as to whether the triptych's central panel is a moral warning or a panorama of paradise lost.

Bosch painted three large triptychs (the others are The Last Judgment of c. 1482 and The Haywain Triptych of c. 1516) that can be read from left to right and in which each panel was essential to the meaning of the whole. Each of these three works presents distinct yet linked themes addressing history and faith. Triptychs from this period were generally intended to be read sequentially, the left and right panels often portraying Eden and the Last Judgment respectively, while the main subject was contained in the center piece. It is not known whether The Garden was intended as an altarpiece, but the general view is that the extreme subject matter of the inner center and right panels make it unlikely that it was intended to function in a church or monastery, but was instead commissioned by a lay patron.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Comments (1)


For some reason, when I look at this painting, Vanilla Ice pops into my head and starts singing 'Bosch, Bosch, baby' (to the tune of 'Ice, Ice, baby')