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The Garden of Earthly Delights

Artist: Hieronymous Bosch
Created: c. 1504
Dimensions (cm): 386.0 x 206.0
Format: Wooden triptych
Location: Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

The Garden of Earthly Delights painted by Hieronymus Bosch in 1500 in Prado, Madrid is the most famous and unconventional of his works. It exhibits same theme found in his earlier paintings: that humankind is given over to sin. It depicts the creation of the world and the downfall of man.

This triptych piece, traditionally entitled the Painting of the Strawberry Tree is one of the most inventive- fantasy painting that has ever existed in the history of art. The complete work consists of four paintings on a series of folding panels; the outer panel reveals the Third Day of Creation when closed. Inside, the central panel is the Garden of Earthly Delights (where the title of the painting comes from), to the left of it, the Garden of Eden, representing the Creation of the World and to the right of it, Hell. There are over a thousand figures in this work altogether.

The first panel of the Garden of Earthly Delights depicts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before the eating from the tree of knowledge. In this terrestrial paradise created by Bosch, we see what seems to be God presenting Eve to Adam. Behind them lies the tree of life and in the background (center right) the palm tree with the serpent is the tree of knowledge. This piece represents man at peace before original sin.

The second panel which is the center piece entitled Garden of Earthly Delights is filled with prancing nude men and women delighting themselves in fleshly pleasure, in other words, a wild and sensual orgy. The background is filled with giant birds, fish and fruit. This piece in the triptych involves symbolism and illusion. It represents Man’s fall into sin.

The third panel in the Garden of Earthly Delights is Hell. It represents the consequence of a life filled with sin. Bosch depicts a horrid and chilling scene depicting different punishments for different sins. The evil is evident in this right wing. Fire is seen in much of the painting, which can be symbolic of death.

Another scene in Bosch’s painting that is striking appears in the center of the painting. Under the dish that holds the bagpipes, is a portrait of Bosch himself.

The Garden of Earthly Delights is a truly bizarre and dazzling display of fantasy that came from the imagination of a great artist.


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