The Markt of Bruges with horse carriage, Belgium

Garden of Earthly Delights Hieronymus Bosch

For centuries the church held the body captive.

Marriage served to procreate and dampen lusts. Pleasure was out of the question. But did the body not have a sexual equipment that naturally triggered pleasure? And wasn’t the world-famous triptych a guide to that?

God gave Adam and Eve the message, not sex as an act of lust or desire, but only as an act of procreation. This was the official teaching in paradise, but after the fall, people sinned everywhere.

Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights dates from the 15th century, the late Middle Ages or the early Renaissance, a period of prosperity in the County of Flanders, but also of pride, sin and fornication, much fornication.

Bosch aimed his mocking arrows at the hypocrisy of the church, the snobbery of the nobility and the immorality of the people. He fled the stake with this painting.

The triptych has a chronological order and reads from left to right, fluently representing Eden, the garden of earthly pleasures and hell.

Garden of Earthly Delights Left panel

In the Garden of Earthly Delights, Bosch and Eve do not cover their noble parts.

On the left panel of the triptych, Adam and Eve are standing with God in earthly paradise. Here they still live happily, naked and without shame.

Adam and Eve openly show their genitals to the public, a thorn in the side of the clergy, but Bosch emphasizes that his scene of paradise marriage takes place before the fall.

The first human couple was not yet aware of good and evil, of sin and fornication. It is the only innocent dialogue between a man and a woman in the entire triptych.

Contrary to the creation story of other painters, there is no apple tree or olive tree on the Bosch canvas.



Bosch shows how God presents Eve to Adam. She avoids Adam’s gaze, but shows her body seductively.

Adam looks surprised. On the one hand he is surprised by the presence of God and on the other hand he realizes that Eve is of the same nature as himself and is made from his own body. Finally, the intensity of Adam’s gaze shows that he is experiencing sexual arousal and the primary urge to reproduce for the first time.

There is a clear physical contact between the three. Adam’s toes lean against the feet of God, and God holds Eve by the wrist. This creates a complex of magical energy.


Fauna & Flora

How could Bosch paint an elephant and a giraffe without ever seeing these animals?

Remarkable in Bosch’s representation of his earthly paradise are the images of exotic animals and plants. It is impossible that Bosch had already seen this exotic fauna and flora in person.

Bosch thus responds to rumors from his immediate seaport environment and illustrates the animal and plant kingdom based on the folk tales of the overseas explorers Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama from the same period.

The author of the painting therefore provided his European viewers with a great deal of information about life on the terra incognita of foreign continents. However, the shape of the animals is particularly amusing and very different from their natural anatomy, probably like the sailor stories after months of scorn beech and hallucinations.



Bosch was an animal lover, his fauna charms every corner of the triptych, but the owl was his diabolical propaganda.

There are hundreds of them in the paintings of Jeroen Bosch. Little owls, long-eared owls, barn owls. In the Middle Ages, the owl faced the danger of the always lurking devil and was therefore a loyal ally for the ‘devil maker’ Bosch. The nocturnal animal symbolizes both good and evil, light and darkness.


Source of Life

In the paradise fountain, the sex of a man and a woman are united in one organic form.

The symbolic source of life is built monumental, starting at the bottom with the vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries, ending at the top with a man’s phallus.

The pink structure is central to the Garden of Earthly Delights and embodies the origin of our existence, human life that arises after communion between man and woman.

The body fluids flow freely from the source of life. The animals also drink from the water. The purity and purity of the water is emphasized by the gems at the base of the source.


Garden of Earthly Delights Central Panel

The Garden of Earthly Delights is teeming with people, who are also all naked. It is striking that children and old people are missing.

Bosch warns us about longing for the world to come in with the first few people. This desire culminates in the central panel, where countless figures engage in all kinds of lust-driven activities.

In addition to many explicit nude scenes, it contains impossible elements such as flying fish and mythical creatures. People also include mythical figures such as hairy savages, mermaids and sea knights who emphasize unrestrained sexuality.

Genital Emoji

In the Middle Ages, the church was the equivalent of the backseat of a car, the place where millions of people experienced their first time.

The 5 monumental ‘buildings’ that Bosch presents in the central panel at the top are interpretations of churches and cathedrals from that time. The towers and bricks were replaced by fleshy penis and vagina shaped elements. Multiple clitorises, testes and acorn-shaped objects reflect the emblem of his surreal creations.

In the Middle Ages, houses were shared by entire families, private bedrooms existed only in the homes of the nobility. So it was difficult for couples and loved ones to find a place to make love undisturbed. Church buildings were favorite places for making love.

Bosch clearly capitalized on current events with his immoral visual literature, not only with the obscene transformation, but also with the location of these buildings, each time on a waterline that represents the 3 continents known at that time, Europe, Asia and Africa. Sin and lust is spread all over the world.


Forbidden fruit

The exotic fruits in the Garden of Earthly Delights were medieval viagra for the inhabitants of paradise.

The symbol from the Bible where Eve is the first to eat the forbidden fruit, and also shares the apple with her husband, is translated extremely superlatively by Bosch. Not limited to one apple tree as in the authentic story from the Old Testament, but spread all over the entire central panel, the magic of the forbidden fruit is exhibited by Bosch.

The fruit is not just limited to an apple but takes on many other fruit characters. We see strawberries, citrus fruits, pears, raspberries, grapes, cherries and berries in all kinds of colors and shapes. The inhabitants of the Garden of Earthly Delights eagerly feast, share among themselves, and use the sinful fruits as a vessel, as an airplane and even as a housing and masturbation tool.




Polygamy was, according to the Church, a serious offense and severely punished.

Biblical marriage was seen only on the sensible side, as a spiritual community. Husband and wife were partners and had to reflect Adam and Eve.

Faithfulness within marriage was included in the Criminal Code, which led to opposition from the nobility. Peasants, slaves and maids were considered the property of their master, and had no rights but only duties as serfs. If one wants many children, polygamy was a virtue, at least then.

In the Middle Ages, many villagers died of STI from polygamy. Was monogamy a human invention of the Church to fight disease and limit birth? It is still preached in AIDS areas…



No one speaks easily or openly about masturbation. The cause lies in our old religion.

For centuries, masturbation was a sinful disease, resulting in a gigantic taboo that lingers in our contemporary modern Western society even after various sexual revolutions. The forbidden even gave a boost to the forerunners of the porn industry.

Since Adam and Eve’s original sin, Christianity has labeled self-gratification as a dangerous, sinful, and selfish act that has left people secretly and fearfully indulged in self-staining for centuries.

Experiencing sexual lust, committing the act that was not aimed at reproduction in particular, according to the moral knights of the church, was a form of pernicious vanity, non-productive relaxation and opulence.

The disease presented for centuries developed a new industry in the Renaissance itself, supplying products such as chastity belts and bandages to prevent women from spreading their legs.

Adam & Eve


In the underground hole in the bottom right corner of the center panel we see Adam and Eve again.

Adam emphatically points to Eve as the main culprit of all misery. Eva is not aware of any evil and still has a fruit in her hand. In front of her mouth is a host, which refers to ‘victim’, translated from the Latin hostia.

The Inverted World


Birds live in water and fish on land or in the air.

The natural proportions of size between man, animal, plant and object have been eliminated according to the principles of Bosch’s upside-down world. The natural habitat has been exchanged, so the birds and fruits are often the same size as the people or even larger.

Bosch emphasizes the same chaos and change from the Bible. The life of Jesus was from his birth a chain of a world that was completely reversed. He who was announced to rule as King was crucified as a criminal.



A gay man’s best friend is female.

A gay man with flowers in his anus seductively leans against a woman, who in turn is stroked by another man.

The conscious woman enjoys the attention of ‘wrong’ men because of the tender and emotional touches, but shows no interest in sexual intercourse.

Of the entire painting, she is the only woman with a hood on her head, which indicates chastity. Her place among several men makes her the only woman in the triptych who is not into fierce sex.

The woman has strikingly the same pose as Adam on the left panel, with her legs straight and her upper body raised. 



Black men and women also live in the Garden of Earthly Delights, while there were no black people in Europe in the Middle Ages.

Bosch took his inspiration from a black tiger between white sheets from Bartholomeus Dias, the explorer who was the first European to set foot in South Africa in 1500.

Bosch’s work shows a lot of interracial sex. This while a fornication law in the Middle Ages prohibited sex between people of the white race and the black race.

When a man was caught breaking the law, he was sentenced to five years ‘imprisonment, a woman four years’ imprisonment.

Prostituting women for interracial sex and allowing interracial sex on private property was punishable by five years’ imprisonment.

Lust Tents


With his Garden of Earthly Delights, Bosch embodies the pre-Fall phase: the episode where people were not ashamed and indulged in immoral sex in the wild without any prudishness.

The only form of “housing” that can be seen on the triptych are the giant fruits in which the beloved wallow and completely surrender to the prohibition of eating the forbidden fruit.

Striking in Bosch’s impotent Garden of Eden are the two ‘minnets’ where some timidity can still be noticed.

The red tent refers to the place where women retreat monthly for three days during new moon and share their sisterhood during the first menstrual period.

It is not involuntary to locate the orange tent just next to the red tent. The color ‘orange’ emphasizes ‘caution’ and is situated between red (stop immediately) and green (keep driving).

In and around the orange minnet tent you can only see men who are inclined to anal sex during the three days. The gigantic orange rectum, under which only men are located, is richly decorated with white nerve endings, a thunder-colored sphincter and at the top a short proximity to the scrotum.



A wife had to be submissive to her husband in everything, just as the church is also submissive to Christ.

At the front left is a bunch in an amniotic membrane, a thin shell that normally contains a fetus. The man has put his hand on the abdomen of the woman. The woman also desires to rest her hand on the man’s thigh.

It is a Bosschian variant of the small boats depicted in late medieval books in which one courts and declares love. The symbol is contrary to our religion, it was inappropriate for a woman to express her desire to a man.



Sodomy was a mortal sin in the late Middle Ages and was severely punished.

Sodomy includes all sexual acts that are not productive and therefore a sin, as is incest and sex with animals. Sodomy was seen as a grave sin that would strike the entire community and was even identified as the cause of plague epidemics.

Between circa 1400 and 1700, 179 people in Bruges, ‘the Sodom of the North’, were accused of ‘unnatural’ sexual acts. As many as 113 of them were sentenced to death and burned at the stake.

Historical sources from Bruges sketch numerous examples of a thriving ‘nightlife environment’ avant la lettre, with dozens of brothels and bathhouses that functioned as whore houses.

Mating dance


In the center of the central panel, a motley parade of wild men drives around a pond with lusty women.

The men ride on animals, with which Bosch indicates that man is guided by animal sex drives. Literally, because they ride on the backs of horses, ponies, pigs, buffaloes, unicorns, bears, camels, cats and anything that can transport them. The men carry fruits, eggs, birds and fish as a lust offering to the women.

Obsessed with lust and looking for a sex partner, they race laps nonstop in a vicious circle, their libido seems untamable. They are blinded by the desire for a woman and completely lost control. Everyone wants to drive the first, but in a circle this is impossible, it is an eternal scene.

Pool of destruction


The pond of women symbolizes the power of the female and the folly and tendency to sin of men.

The will of the man beats the appeal of the woman. He loses control of himself and becomes ‘wild’, but the woman confidently trusts the arrival of her male.

The marsh pond is depicted idyllically, almost like a swimming pool. The women in the pool look seductive, the scene therapeutically cuts in on the wild men. As if possessed by a tormentor, the men lose every sense of reason because of the beauty of the women in the water.

Garden of Earthly Delights Right panel

In hell all eroticism is lost, the mortals cover their genitals and breasts out of shame.

All residents of the Garden of Earthly Delights have lived immodestly on the center panel and are now being punished terribly in hell on the right panel. Sinners are punished, musical instruments become instruments of torment, and people are attacked, tortured or eaten by devils and monsters.

The paradox of the utopian love paradise in the garden and the apotheosis of sinfulness in hell could not be depicted more extreme than in this triptych by Bosch.

With this ultra-controversial battle, he committed historical high treason to the papal clergy, but immortalized the tyranny of the church in the Middle Ages in our Western visual literature.

The full hell decor on the right panel is set at night. Cold coloring and frozen waterways reinforce the chilling retaliation policy of our faith. Cities burn in the background, wars rage in the landscape and mutated animals feed on human flesh.


A Devil's Poop Chair


The bird-headed blue ‘poop chair devil’ devours a sinner from whose anus birds, smoke and fire come.

An owl also figures in hell. He strikes like a demon from a nightmare. He sits on a giant poop chair with a pot on his head and jars as shoes. Human bodies are eaten and immediately pooped out again. Straight into the sewer.

In reality, the luxury poop chair that Bosch painted here was only for the upper classes of society. The common people put their needs directly into the sewer.



The head of the monster is Bosch’s self-portrait.

This strange creature with its human face seems to bend over. The shoulders turn into tree-like legs with protruding branches. The tree man balances on two small boats in which a number of people are hiding. In the inn inside the hull, a woman pours beer from a barrel. A crossbow hangs from a branch. A man is sitting on a giant pad, a demonic sign.

A tree bag is on the head of the tree man, the instrument symbolizes of laziness and laziness. A smaller one adorns the flag on its shell-like back. Did the Devil’s Inn customers go to hell because of their laziness and booze?

A waste of music


Music was forbidden, anyone who got caught while practicing an instrument was tortured with the same toy.

The only problem with ecclesiastical music in the very early Middle Ages is that music was forbidden in the church. There was no intention of singing in the church, and instruments in the church were completely out of the question.

The damned undergo the most terrible punishments in hell. Musical instruments such as a hurdy-gurdy, a mandolin and a harp have been turned into torture devices.

Momento Mori


With the Black Death, city fires, famine and the stake, death lurked everywhere.

In the Middle Ages, on the day of his death, man assumed that he had to account for his past life.

Depending on the sins committed, it was determined how long his soul should remain in purgatory. Life is short, but eternity was really an eternity in hell in the Middle Ages.

The spoonbill with its spatula-shaped long bird’s beak is reminiscent of the mask of a plague doctor.

The beaky mask was then filled with herbs and spices to purify the air and defuse plague fumes.

What worked in any case was that the extremely long nose of the plague mask created a certain distance from the plague sufferer and thus prevented contamination.

Animal sex


People love animals, pets are caressed more often than women or men. Only that one spot remains untouched. Usually at least …

The devilish demons in Bosch’s hell are a mocking reflection of the demigods of ancient times. These half human, half animal creatures were created after sexual relations between humans and animals.

A serious sin for the Church was sex that no children could produce, such as sodomy, pedophilia, sex with someone of the same sex, masturbation and bestiality.

Those who indulged in unnatural sex, if caught, could almost always count on death: on the gallows, decapitated, drowned, or on the stake.

Chruch authority


The church saw lust as a sin and described what was not allowed: “Sex should not be practiced during the day or naked.”

“Sex is only intended to father children and should only be practiced in a missionary position.”

“If a man masturbates, he shouldn’t have intercourse for four days. If a boy does it often, he must fast for 20 days or be spanked. “

“Whoever commits fornication with an effeminate man, other men or an animal must fast for ten years.”

“Whoever pours out his seed in the mouth has committed the worst sin and must atone for the rest of his life.”

“On Sunday, the Lord’s day, sex is out of the question.”

“In the month before Christmas, love was not to be made.”

“Abstinence was required for 60 days around Easter.”

“Sex was not allowed on all Saints’ days.”



Prostitution was a legal and regulated enterprise in many places in Europe.

The naked woman with the dice on her head is characterized as a whore by the candle and the jar in her hand.

While the church considered pay sex a sin, there was a policy of tolerance. Because in the brothel, a man was able to release his sexual energy, preventing worse sins such as masturbation and homosexuality. Many brothels were run by the city council and were an important source of urban income.

Prostitutes had to wear a red cap as a sign, unofficial prostitution that did not bring in money was banned. The whores were allowed to work all year round, except on public holidays and Easter week. Brothels had to guarantee shelter and shelter for the women, and the prostitutes had to bathe every week.

What if a priest ...


In a fit of desire, monks, priests and nuns sometimes wanted to indulge in carnal activities.

Monks and nuns had taken a vow of chastity, but forbidden lusts were a problem for the church throughout the Middle Ages and are overlooked because priests pay better.

Priests did it with female parishioners or co-workers, or blasted boys. Nuns did it with nuns – or monks disguised as nuns with suspicious bulges in their habit.

Virtually every priest had a resident mistress who supposedly acted only as his housekeeper. When the maid died, the parish immediately appointed a replacement to protect her own women and children in the area.

#dgmw Henry III of Nassau


The Garden of Earthly Delights has the shape of an altarpiece as a triptych, but has never hung in a church, it was too decadent for that.

It was Henry III of Nassau who ordered the work from Bosch to hang in his palace on the Mont des Arts in Brussels. We are situated around 1480, in the era of the perverted spectacle culture of the Burgundian Court.

Hendrik was a flamboyant man who previously despised the faith, which was remarkable for a count from the Flemish of that time. He mainly lived in his palace where there was a bed that could accommodate up to 50 people. With his high libido, he fathered several bastard children with different mistresses.

So it was probably the sexist visions of mischievous Hendrik that were illustrated by Bosch in the famous triptych that was to provide excitement and stimulation in the corridors of his festive temple on the highest mountain in Brussels.

Hendrik was a member of the Order of the Golden Fleece and was convicted there three times for debauched behavior.

Pious of Heresy


Was the Garden of Earthly Delights noble pornography avant la lettre, or a sarcastic irony on the theological dictatorship of the church, it remains an eternal discussion among art historians.

The interpretations of the Garden of Earthly Delights range from conventional Christian to pagan heresy. Bosch’s paintings can indeed be read as one great judgment of a devout Christian against heresy, but just as much as a secret code for heresy.

The fact that the central panel of the triptych with its erotic scenes in a tantric Garden of Delights stimulates almost every viewer to the depths of his abdomen is characteristic of the naturally sexual man.

The scene of the two naked primeval men Adam and Eve without fig leaves for their genders gave many mortals a wet dream for the past 2000 years.

After all, it embodies the first sex clip from an infinite number of episodes since our primary existence.

Be that as it may, one thing is certain: Bosch’s paintings ask for a closer look if you want to see the forest through the trees.

Infernal sex


How on earth could hell cause sexual arousal?

In the Middle Ages, such visual literature was only visible to a select audience of the highest status. There are several testimonials that sleeping quarters and seaside resorts in the Burgundian palaces were adorned with erotic scenes.

The ordinary people never saw these paintings and did not even know about the existence of such caricatural language. At most the maid could see such works, for her it was even a privilege and enjoyable sex to be raped by a man of nobility.

The rural people’s moral indignation was caused by the aristocracy through ferocious sex, SM, mistreatment and abuse, often resulting in the death of the poor victim. Many books have been published about the uncontrollable urges, sexual torture, torture and experiments in the early Renaissance. The sexual revolution in Flanders around 1500 brought with it a lot of immoral literature about pleasure as ‘mortal sin’.

The ear


Cutting off one or both ears was a typical thief punishment. This mutilation made it easy to recognize a thief.

The two huge ears are held together by an arrow. A knife is clamped in between. Together they leave a trail of destruction through the hell of Bosch.

The ominous ears seem to be a war machine and at the same time evoke thoughts of the male genital organ.

On the knife is a letter ‘B’, the monogram of the painter.

El Bosco Museo del Prado


The Garden of Earthly Delights is at its best in Madrid. The authentic painting can be admired in the Prado Museum.

Bosch is the pride of the Netherlands, and you would expect that the original version of the Garden of Earthly Delights would hang in the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center in Den Bosch? Unfortunately, there is only a replica. This is because the Netherlands was occupied by Spain at the time. As a result, many Bosch works of art ended up in various places in Spain and Portugal.

Many Spaniards even see the Bushman as a Spaniard. The Catalans don’t even know who you are talking about when you mention the name ‘Bosch’. They know him there as ‘El Bosco’. Bosch’s Spanish equivalent, boscesca, also means crazy. But Bosch will always remain a Dutchman.

Garden of Delights Virtual


Let yourself be seduced and go out in the virtual Garden of Earthly Delights…

The famous artwork by Jheronimus Bosch can now be viewed digitally up close. The transmedia makeover consists of a virtual reality film and a documentary with audio, voice over and music.

The fifteenth-century triptych is full of details that you can only really see when you can dive into the pores of the painting. This virtual tour where you can wander freely in Bosch’s vibrant universe was made in honor of his five hundredth anniversary in 2016.

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Garden of Delights Gigapixels


Pay special attention to the many details in the background that you hardly see in the original work.

Thanks to the expertise of Robert Erdmann, Professor of Visualizing Art History and Senior Scientist at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the authentic triptych of the Garden of Earthly Delights is digital heritage. You can zoom in up to the megapixel height.

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