Solving the problem of evil in the twenty-first century

Garden of Earthly Delights

Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights is quite the enigmatic piece, implicitly conveying the good, the bad, and whatever lies between. This Flemish triptych, viewed from left to right, starts off with an allusion the popular creationist scene from Genesis yet diverts from the actual story of Adam and Eve. There are other images that accompany the man and woman, such as a whimsical pink fountain and bizarre looking animals. It seems that Jesus is holding Eve’s hand and is in a sense, guiding her to be morally good while presenting her to Adam. Eve’s eyes are cast downward avoiding her lover’s stare, this is telling of human innocence and the purity prior to man’s original sin. Adam, on the other hand, gazes at Eve in awe, apparently yearning for her in a sexual manner. From the beginning of the triptych, human flaw is noted and made evident.

In the center panel, there are individuals and couples cavorting and reveling in an unusual landscape, akin to the illustration in the first panel. There is an overt sense of sexuality, and nudity is not something to hide. The symbols that illuminate the passionate essence of these humans consist of an oyster, which is a common aphrodisiac, along with birds, and fruit, which are representational of fertility and procreation. Several actions of these humans draw upon the nature of corruption and sin, as these people live freely day by day, and act upon whatever they please. The lack of conscientiousness and absence of any sort of consequence in their mind is suggestive of a paradise-like world, non-existent of original sin.

The far right, and last panel is Bosch’s depiction of Hell. It is the obvious contrast to the first panel, and the details in the illustration are quite ghastly. There are images of demons devouring people, a gambler who is nailed to a table, an arachnid creature imprisoning a woman while an amphibian bites her and plenty other disturbing illustrations. The twisted element of this panel expresses the pain and anguish of Hell and propels the audience to take a step back and reflect upon their own behavior. Overall, the scenes from the three panels serve as commentary on lust for life and sexual desire. The work forewarns the viewer of these grave sins in order that they act otherwise or if not, be prepared to suffer the horrible fate that the humans in the third panel have.


One response

  1. jlai1226

    This is a really cool piece of art! I love how the middle piece seems almost like a continuation of the piece on the left. Perhaps it is suggesting that at first glance, humans see the sins and actions of the world as not terribly different than what is pure. The piece on the right, as you said, is a warning of reality and shows how easy it is to cross the thin line between good and evil.

    May 12, 2011 at 6:55 pm

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