The Garden of Earthly Delights

7:00 AM

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthy Delights (closed), 1503

The outer panels of perhaps Bosch's most famous painting depicts a scene utterly different from the contents inside. This monochromatic green-gray scale directly contrasts the vibrant green, blue, and pink innards as does the lack of humans and creatures. The only figure seen is God on the upper left corner next to the quotation “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (Psalm 33.9).

Leading theories suggest that these outside panels are a view of the third day of Earth when land, plants, and foliage were created. This argument makes a lot of sense chronologically (according to the Bible) as the inside illustrations follow the linear story of the creation of man in the Garden of Eden, man's temptation to evil, and then finally Hell itself. Additionally, there is no evidence of the Sun, moon, or stars, which were created on the Fourth day. The title The Garden of Earthly Delights complements this suggestion in a witty fashion; the "Garden" being the previously mentioned Eden or perhaps the land that God created, and "Delights" being man's ecstasy from lust and greed.

I chose the exterior of this chef d'oeuvre because of how Bosch applied his style to such an uncharacteristic subject. Also, by how drastically different it is compared to any of his other works: there is not a single creature or ungodly monstrosity, nor any vibrant color pops.

Bosch teases to the interior of this painting and past works of his through the surreal plants and landmarks on the Earth. In a way, Bosch plays God my making his own semi-disturbing version of the Bible story and by creating his own planet. Bosch does not hold back in this painting. It is so technically beautiful and skillful and yet also so thought provoking and open to interpretation, which makes this piece so prolific and admired. By making the outer panels so simplistic, he ingeniously compliments his own work and creates a welcoming image that unfolds into this delightful/nightmarish world.

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