“Garden of Earthly Delights”
Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1480-1505, oil on panel, 220 x 390 cm (Prado, Madrid)
Hieronymus Bosch was born around 145o in what is presently known as the Netherlands. Not much is known about this “psychedelic” religious artist because he was not much of a writer.
Bosch really caught my attention because his work has everything that would not be shown in a church, though the piece expresses three theoretically biblical themes: Heaven, Earth, and Hell. His courage to express his ideas freely, really draws me to his style, especially in a time when a lot of artists had the same style. This piece is a very large and dynamic triptych which needs to be looked at closely to see the morbidness of most of his images (looks can be deceiving). The use of bold and bright colors makes the piece particularly appealing to the eye and has a seemingly happy appearance to it.
The use of value is used to separate the three realms painted in this piece. The brighter, lighter colors depict a Utopia (Heaven), and transitions to a more neutral scene as Earth, and finally ends with dark dramatic colors to show Hell. These colors are very successful at luring emotions to each of the panels because of the large variance in each of the images (Dunne, 2016).
This piece makes me feel like I am listening to a Pink Floyd album. His work is bold and bright which would draw anyones attention to it. I think his work brings the reality of how horrible humanity can be and the importance of doing good to reach some sort victory in the end, like a Valhalla in Nordic mythology. Knowing me, this would be a center piece of my house, though the images are decently graphic, I find that the triptych tells such a diverse story it can be interpreted so differently be each viewer.
Hieronymus Bosch makes the viewer feel like they are seeing inside his mind, which may feel uncomfortable for some, because what they are viewing is the authenticity of imagination. Bosch even stepped away from the typical biblical views of a scorching hell, giving his “hell” demons with faces and swords, presenting a battle field against humanity. His style was so abnormal, it founded most of the ideas of todays “surrealism”.
“The Surrealist artists sought to channel the unconscious as a means to unlock the power of the imagination. Disdaining rationalism and literary realism, and powerfully influenced by psychoanalysis, the Surrealists believed the rational mind repressed the power of the imagination, weighting it down with taboos.”
Humanism is an apparent influence in Bosch’s work because of his focus on humans with no holy or saintly depictions and what is wrong or right with them. His work inherently depicted the sins done by humans on Earth. Since Bosch was greatly connected to religion through The Brotherhood of Our Lady, I think his pieces were created to make people believe that there were still consequences for their actions and that hell was real and relevant (Jones, 2016). He did this by painting hell very dramatically with dark and contrasting colors along with images of demons and morbid figures.
“The Garden of Earthly Delights, while it does contain biblical images of God and the Creation story, has a much stronger focus on the pursuit and punishment of earthly indulgences and carnal pleasure than God’s role in judging man, or how to reach salvation after committing these sins.”