11 October 2011

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosh Part 1

The Garden of Earthly Delights is a triptych painted by the early Netherlandish master Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450–1516), housed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid since 1939. Painted in 1505, it reveals great complexity of meaning and vivid imagery.

This work it is a religious work like no other. Painted during the Renaissance, it is full of disturbing symbols. When you look at it you think - this is when weirdness in art begun.

The symbolism of this remarkable painting appears to be right out of a nightmare. Figures intertwine in such fantastic and intricate patterns that the eye becomes easily confused by the complex imagery. People mingle deliriously with plants, animals and monsters, and all are leaping, dancing, running, copulating, defecating, and tormenting each other with an almost convulsive frenzy.

The Garden of Earthly Delights

The painting is composed by three panels, which were kept in a castle with the wings  closed. The room was surrounded by other artworks, sculptures and it was considered the room of curiosities. Great men were invited to visit the room  and were amazed by this work once the shutters were open.

The Garden of Earthly Delights with outer panels closed 

From the outside all you can see is a white globe.  But from the inside, it reveals a very different picture, very hard to understand.

Bosh was confusingly modern for his time, he had a freaky imagination - funny and at the same time sinister. There is lots of interpretations of this painting, but no one really knows for sure what The Garden of Earthly Delight is about. Bosh never wrote anything about it and nobody noted down anything he said about it. We know virtually nothing about Bosh's life from the date of his birth till his death. All we know about him is that he was famous for painting religious works, altar pieces, but not conventional religious imagery. The Haywain is an example of Bosh's way of painting religious themes. It looks like a normal altar piece at first glance, it has a scene of hell in the right with  people being inventively  tortured, on the left panel there is a scene of paradise with Adam and Eve, but in the central panel where normally should be a picture representing the history of humanity, he painted a meaningless picture of a bale of hay with people pushing it to nowhere.  

Like the Haywain, The Garden of Earthly Delights looks normal at first, it also shows a kind of hell on the right panel, heaven on the left and humanity in the central picture.

Left panel representing heaven 

Right panel representing hell 

Central panel representing humanity
The most intriguing part of the painting is certainly the central picture, it  has made people think and stare for hundreds of years. It is full of different human experiences. To contemporary people it looks like surrealism ... to the people that looked at it 500 years ago it was all about morality. 
The beauty of the picture is on its intense detail, but the horror of it is there too. Beauty and evil go together, like in a dream.

Nude humans living in a world of weird fruits ...

Human fed fruits by giant birds ...

Nude humans in hunting parties, looking for fruit ...

Continues ...

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