c.1500, oil on table, 220- 389 cm.
Madrid, Prado Museum .
One of the most famous and commented paintings of all the western Art, but also one of most complex and misinterpreted. An in-depth analysis of the work would mean pages and pages of interpretations and -in many cases- mere conjectures. Briefly, all works by Bosch are basically moralizing, didactic. The artist sees in the society of his time the triumph of sin, the depravation, and all the things that have caused the fall of the human being from its angelical character; and he wants to warn his contemporaries about the terrible consequences of his impure acts. The panel of the left represents the paradise, Adam and Eve living, free of any sin, in the middle of a formidable Eden full of fantastic animals and exuberant vegetation, with the Fountain of the Life dominating the scene. The panel of the right represents the terrible torments which the sinners suffer in hell, including being devoured (and later defecated) by a strange figure with a kettle in its head. The scene is sensational for its fantasy and colours, and it's especially remarkable the overwhelming use of the light and shadows in the buildings burning in the upper part of the image.
The central panel is extremely complex, as much for its composition as for its meaning. The centre of the composition is occupied by a pool full of women, with a group of men surrounding it, which have been often interpreted as an allegory of sexual desire. Several references to the original sin -women and birds giving apples to men- complete the scene. Although this moralizing impetus is ridiculous for any moderately reasonable person nowadays, this work by Hyeronimus Bosch deserves to be considered as one of the greatest paintings of all time.
Text by G. Fernández, www.theartwolf.com