The Garden of Earthly Delights

WHO WAS hieronymus bosch?

A famous Northern Renaissance painters, he portrayed religious themes in fantastical and gothic ways, with dark yet detailed subject matter.

historical overview

At the time this famous Bosch triptych was painted, the beliefs in Hell and damnation were quite prevalent in society, due to the Catholic church.

Historical overview

It is believed this Bosch triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights, was either commissioned by the Count Engelbrecht II of Nassau (1451 to 1504) or Henry III Nassau-Breda (1483 to 1538).

subject matter

When the triptych is closed, the world is depicted as inside a transparent orb or sphere. In the top left corner, the small figure of God sits and holds a book, possibly the Bible. This image is reported to depict the Third Day of Creation.

left panel

God presents Eve to her male counterpart, Adam. God’s right hand is held up in the sign of Benediction, which is a gesture of blessing and a sign commonly associated with Jesus Christ.

left panel

We find more oddities when we look further ahead to the middle ground, which has a large lake with a towering pink structure atop what appears to be a small mound of crystally rock, almost as if it fell from the sky onto it.

left panel

In the background, there is a mountain region. A geometric stone-like structure to the left has a swarm of birds emerging in a swift patterned flight. 

center panel

This panel is filled with figures cavorting. Some are eating and holding different types of berries, some are feeding each other, some are being fed by large birds, and some stand with large cherries on their heads.

center panel

Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves in this garden. There is a mix of men and women, some women appear pregnant too.

center panel

In the middle, we see a strip of land with a circular pool of water in the center. There are hundreds of men riding horses, cows, bears, and other hybrids of enlarged animals like a unicorn with a long horn that looks like a stag’s antler.

right panel

Bosch does not hold back in his depiction of Hell. Depicted here is a dark night compared to the daylight scenes from the previous left and central panels.

right panel

There are several musical instruments that seem to be instruments of torture now and not pleasure, ironically. There are also board games, dice, limbs, impaled figures, and figures being eaten by two dog-like creatures.


In the middle ground, we see a large organic-type structure, there is a face of a man staring to his right (our left). An interesting fact about this face is that it is believed to be a self-portrait of Bosch.


Throughout the three panels, there is a continuous horizon line connecting the entire narrative. Hieronymus Bosch created a large piece, scaling at more than seven feet in height.


Although it holds significant religious meaning, there are theories Bosch also painted this for a select, if not elite, group of people who would have understood many references.


The work has become a delight for thousands of art enthusiasts. If we look at it today, it is a pop-cultural phenomenon and the weird creatures have become endearing in their strangeness.