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The Garden of Earthly Delights
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jtucker's picture

Contributor

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

Contributor

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 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, Spain since 1939.

As little is known of Bosch's life or intentions, interpretations of his intent range 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 (4)

Zhengyu Zhou

The three paintings depict the history of the world and the process of the creation and continuation of evil.

Abby H

Throughout The Garden of Earthly Desires, Hieronymus Bosch highlights a mysterious depiction of human reality through immense details and nuances. Although the Renaissance is known for its crisp, clean, and reverent religious art and architecture, this painting highlights a shift into indulgent, dark, and mythological imagery, shifting from the standards of the time. This wooden canvas folds, creating an exterior painting and a tri-fold painting on the interior. Adhering to the cultural standards of the day, the exterior painting depicts the sphere of the world in monotone, blue-grey colors. This exterior scene is said to contain a creation story due to the inscription of Psalm 33 and the presence of God in the upper corner. Additionally, the scene is a geometrical anomaly since the flat landscape is held within a sphere, similar to that of a snow globe. When the exterior is opened, revealing the inside, we find a bright, vibrant, almost mythical scene. The far-left panel depicts a familiar Genesis scene with Adam and Eve nude in the landscape, surrounded by animals, and resting next to a clothed figure who probably represents either God or Jesus. The vibrant pinks, blues, and greens create the illusion of fantasy or mythological story. This is aided by the unnatural orientation of the rocks and animals, which appear in fantasy novels but not reality. Throughout the far-right panel, we see a dark depiction of eternal damnation. There appear to be depictions of wars, torture, and death. The colors are deep and dark, highly contrasting with the bright colors of the other side. Once again, there are mythological creatures throughout the frame. There are so many figures giving or receiving actions that it is impossible to describe them in any detail. They fall against a backdrop of fires and explosions as the damnation occurs to every figure in the frame. In the center is the link between the two edges. Once again with many figures and vibrant colors, we see a highly mythical nature in the painting. The animals and structures are those seen in novels and movies. In addition, the amount of fruit throughout the landscape hints at an obsession with sexuality. The actions taken by the figures are said to be sins of lust, leading to the corruption of creation and the deadly sins.
The middle panel highlights no conflict or corruption. In fact, the only depictions involve everyone partaking in their desires, harmony with each other and nature, and no repercussions for any actions. This depiction seems to be the utopian dream that people are searching for--harmony and unity with no punishment. However, the outer panels tell a different story--where we started and where we are going. At the same time, it seems as if Bosch considers the outer panel to be the utopian dream. If you close the chaos of the inner panels, you are left with a quiet and calm scene filled with the presence of the Lord. Since Bosch is such a mystery, it is almost impossible to know exactly what he intended with or for this painting. However, the details and fantastic nature of this work intrigue viewers to study its origins, details, and legacy.

TX Bound

When I first looked at this painting, I immediately recognized that there is a time aspect to it. It looks to me that the far left painting represents the past. The middle painting represents the present. And the far-right painting represents a projected future based on the middle painting. The words I would describe each painting from left to right would be as follows: Peace, Chaos, Destruction. In the left painting, peace is represented by the beginning of time, when God created man and animals. In the center painting, it looks as though everyone is feasting and indulging themselves with either romance. But then destruction comes as a result of the chaos. Hieronymus Bosch seems to be prophetically telling what the future will look like if the world continues on its current path. Or he may have recognized the cycle the world finds its self in, peace, chaos, destruction. You can see this play out through the colors Bosch uses in each painting. From lovely forest green to a dark gloomy black. Even the environment starts on the left with grass and trees and blue water and sky. In the right painting, there is no more grass or trees and sky. I also noticed that in the center painting Bosch created circles in the center of it. Starting with the lake and then to the people riding on animals around the lake. It looks like ripples in the water which would also represent the passing of time.

thinkstuff101

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')