The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things

7:00 AM

Bosch, The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things, 1500
By Bhux

When I view The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things in the modern day, I admire the intricate details and whimsical depictions of the seven deadly sins. I chuckle in my head at the strange scenarios, full of queer characters and awkward encounters, that Bosch created. It even looks like the woman at 4 o’clock on the panel is wearing a lampshade; I hadn’t been aware that partying was a sin. However, my lighthearted interpretation of the work contrasts immensely with how the work would have been viewed following its creation in around 1500. 

This work would have struck fear into the hearts of peasants. Bosch painted The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things on a wooden panel so the work is meant to be viewed on a table. Its ability to be viewed from any spot around the table allows for several viewers at the same time. The panel served as a warning to illiterate peasants. It plants a seed of fear into the viewers’ hearts. The work exposes their sins and guilt and scares viewers into submission. In the center is Jesus Christ glaring straight ahead, always watching and seeing all.

The inscription beneath Jesus reads Cave, cave deus videt, which translates into “Beware, beware, God is watching you.” The four panels surrounding the large middle pie depict four different points of judgement and paths that a soul can take in the afterlife. In the top left is the first step of the judgement process. The man is giving his dying testament and repenting for his sins. Following death, the soul is judged by God as seen in the top right corner. After that, it is either heaven or hell. The bottom left depicts hell and the torture sinners endure for eternity. In addition to stabbing and lashing, sinner who are greedy are being ironically boiled in gold as punishment. Finally, in the bottom right we see humans, naked in their natural form, being greeted by angels in heaven. This image serves as an incentive for viewers to live a pious life. God is always watching so the viewer must always avoid sin, or else they must endure eternal suffering. This work serves as an ominous threat to the consequences of sin, and must have left peasants scared and paranoid.

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