God the Father  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Garden of Earthly Delights is the center panel of a triptych by Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. Painted around 1504, The Garden of Earthly Delights is his best-known work. It depicts the Creation of Earth and the infiltration of sin into mankind. The Garden of Earthly Delights in its entirety can be read from exterior to interior and then left to right, featuring a full narrative. Chronologically, the creation of the world becomes imparted onto the creation of Man, followed by earthly sin, culminating in damnation. The left interior panel of Eden depicts animals living together with humans without interaction. Curiously, death exists, exemplified by a cat carrying a mouse and a lion eating a deer or antelope. Moving to the center panel, animals and humans begin to coexist and intermingle. On the right side, animals torture humans, completing a transformation of “simple” creatures into anthropomorphic superiors.

The Garden of Earthly Delights is an oil painting on wood panels. The exterior shutters are grisaille on panel. The centre panel measures 220 by 195 cm, and the wings measure 220 by 95 cm. Although the triptych format was standard for church altarpieces at the time, it is likely that The Garden of Earthly Delights was produced for the private enjoyment of a noble family.

It is currently hangs in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain. The title is a later attribution. It was registered in the inventory of the Spanish crown as "the picture with the strawberry-tree fruits".



When closed, the shutters depict an image of the earth as a flat disc within a sphere with the land floating upon a sea. Although the earth is bright from sunlight slipping through receding storm clouds, strange organic and even obscene forms are seen rising from the ground. A small representation of God the Father appears enthroned in the outer firmament at the upper left corner. At the top of the panels is a quote from Psalm 33:9 of the Bible: "For he spake and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." Some critics have taken the verse to imply that the scene is one from Creation; others hold that it is of the receding waters of the Flood during the days of Noah. The interior triptych is thus interpreted to represent the days of sexual fornication prior to the Flood. Other critics have supposed that the outer shutters represent a metaphor for the last days and not a specific moment in Biblical history. It is argued that there is no ark or human and animal corpses present on the outer shutters, and that it is therefore unlikely that it could be representing the specific Flood of Noah. Yet another interpretation describes the picture as depicting the third day of the Creation of Earth.

The shutters open to reveal the three-paneled triptych.


Garden of Eden

The leftmost panel features the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Knowledge (the one at the middle of the right edge), and God (in the form of Jesus), presenting Eve to Adam.

Garden of Earthly Delights

The centre panel details the descent of humanity into sin, featuring giant birds, abundant fruit, and many people frolicking nude in a lush, green field.

The Hell

Finally, the rightmost panel illustrates Hell. People are treated to various nightmarish torments including being eaten by a giant bird and defecating coins. The seven deadly sins are featured prominently throughout.

  • The bird sitting in the chair eating the man is supposed to be Satan himself.
  • The face staring out from under the dish holding the pink bagpipes is said to be a portrait of Bosch himself.
  • The woman near the bottom, under the bird's chair, in the clutches of a monster, staring into a mirror (which is also the rear end of some creature), is guilty of the deadly sin of pride (vanity).
  • The person defecating coins into the pit under the bird's chair is guilty of the deadly sin of avarice.
  • The man nearby, vomiting into the same pit, is guilty of the deadly sin of gluttony.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "God the Father" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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