The Markt of Bruges with horse carriage, Belgium

Last Judgment Hieronymus Bosch

Few artists have caused as much resentment in our history as Bosch.

Every self-respecting Flemish Primitive had its own version of the Last Judgment, but Bosch’s portrayal was sarcastic, contained defamatory blasphemy, and was radically against any form of human respect.

His illustrations of hell literature were a thorn in the side of the Church and caused many nightmares to the Puritan people.

The triptych is read from left to right. The left panel shows the creation of Adam and Eve and their fall. On the right panel, Satan is enthroned in hell with his entourage. And on the central panel, Bosch symbolizes every form of human destruction.

The Original Sin Left panel

Adam and Eve hop like a whirlwind through the Earthly Paradise, but does everything end in a rice pudding buffet with golden spoons?

The main theme of the left panel is original sin. It depicts the marriage of paradise of Adam and Eve, their fall caused by not resisting temptation and the associated banishment from paradise. At the very top is the fall of the rebellious angels, with which the painter refers to the entrance of evil.




Was the poetic creation story a fairy tale that determined the Bible’s sales success, or rather ethical politics?

Hell started on the first day of the creation of the world. With God’s creation of light, darkness, the moon and the stars, but also good and evil angels arose.

Rebellious angels, like Lucifer, were driven from heaven to hell. The disobedient man later faced the same fate.

the creation


The creator kneaded Eve blushed on the cheeks for the lonely wandering Adam. The rest is history…

According to the paradise tale, God created heaven and earth, animals and plants, and made the first man, a man, out of the ground.

God did not approve of the man remaining alone and wanted to make a helper for him. So God put man to a deep sleep, took a rib from him, and built a woman out of it. Man recognized her as “his own bones and his own flesh.” The man and woman were naked but not ashamed.

God placed Adam and Eve in the earthly Paradise and told them that they could eat the fruit of all the trees in the garden, except the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, with the purpose of dissuading man from licentious dreams .

the temptation


Adam and Eve were naked and happy in paradise. Only after the corruption came shame, clothes, and sweat. The long pants are a punishment…

The serpent claimed that if they ate the fruits of that tree, they would not die at all, but on the contrary open their eyes, they would be like gods and have knowledge of good and evil.

The woman was the first to resist temptation, eat the fruit, and also give the fruit to Adam. At that time they immediately became aware of their nakedness and became ashamed of it. They then covered their genitals with fig leaves.

God’s prohibition that announces death and human nakedness, and the serpent (Satan) as deceiver of women, marks the beginning of a new story, ending with the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

The sin of Adam and Eve and the consequent loss of the favor of God and their enjoyable stay in Paradise is known as the Fall.

the banishment


After fornication of Adam and Eve, God chased them out of paradise.

Having learned of good and evil, God prevented Adam and Eve from eating that tree any longer and thereby living forever.

Thus death entered. And since man could no longer live forever, he had to reproduce himself. Sex and the temptation to have sex was accepted from then on as man’s first sin and became a taboo from the outset.

Since original sin, the world has been plagued by malice, sin, suffering, sickness and death. Adam and Eve’s decision has resulted in every human being being born with a sinful nature, a natural tendency to sin with lust, decadence and fornication as a result.

the rol of the snake


Adam’s first pet after the fall was a snake. Even if a snake is not poisonous, it pretends.

The role of the snake as a seducer of Adam and Eve is evident, the snake is the ancient symbol for the male sexual power, the male member in erection. This animal has no eyelids. Freud also saw a phallus symbol in the snake

In the Bible, the snake represents Lucifer, the fallen angel. The snake is described in Genesis as the cunning among all animals. Like an evil spirit he crawls around on the ground like the phallus of the earth. Feeding on lust, he takes possession of women. A lust that is not limited to one, but to several women, just like a snake sheds its old skin over and over again. A person depends on his fellow man like a snake from his skin …

Mythologically, the snake is seen as passionate and romantic and likes to be at the center of the partner’s life. Good at seduction, in courtship and romance, but when it comes to loyalty, the partner often feels in the dark.

apples and lemons


Selling apples as lemons, clean apples are also called sour, which are apples on golden legs.

In art, the forbidden fruit is often represented by an apple. This idea is inspired by the Latin name of the apple: ‘malus’, which means ‘bad’ in addition to ‘apple’, and also refers to the Adam’s apple. However, it is not clear from the Biblical story whether it was an apple or another fruit.

Apparently even the mysterious fruit in the hand of Eve on the ‘Lamb of God’ is not an apple but a citrus fruit. What Van Eyck painted made a lot more sense, because in the Middle East where the Garden of Earthly Delights was located, no apple trees grow, but citrus plants grow.

The Day of Judgment Middle Panel

Bosch breaks the law to apologize for something unlawful or against the habit …

In traditional representations of the Last Judgment, such as that of Hans Memling, the center panel is carefully split into two groups. On the left are the elect on the way to heaven or on the left panel, and on the right are the damn on the way to hell or on the right panel.

However, Bosch breaks briskly with this traditional image by only depicting damned people all over the central panel. These damned ones are in a burning and demon-populated world, as if to indicate that the earth is completely in the devil’s grip.

the eccentric


In the center panel on the left, exactly one soul is rescued by an angel from this hell on earth.

By putting so many damned people against that one chosen one, Jheronimus Bosch shows a very negative image of man, in which no one escapes his or her sins.

In the Middle Ages, people out of poverty sometimes used rotten rye to bake bread, without suspecting that molds when heated turned into hallucinogenic drugs.

It is often suggested that Bosch deliberately used this medieval LSD as a source for his lively hallucinations and surrealist visions.

sex in the 15th century


Eroticism was already rampant in the Middle Ages. At the end of the 15th century, there was a real sexual revolution.

It is useless to resist the desire of nature. Even the cloak will not help us to resist the lusts of the feminine beauty.

Sex and pleasure could be called ‘natural’, if under the control of reason and the flag of moderation.

Man naturally showed an urge for pleasure, but in seeking it he was tempted to make wrong choices.

Then he succumbed to an orgasm purely out of lust, while it should be about boosting conception.

Homosexual acts and experiments with other attitudes in mating also pointed to such deceptions, which in these cases led to total derailment.

Only reason and measure could guarantee the right choices in order to find the right path to effective pleasure in all control.

In the run-up to the Renaissance, and the rebirth of art and culture, the church could not but adopt a more moderate attitude towards pleasure, but only in the context of reproduction.

demons or demigods


The devilish demons in Bosch’s Last Judgment 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.



Medical science also developed in the Golden Age, which turns out to be a real men’s sport.

The economic boom in the Renaissance was only for men. Women were excluded from medicine but also from art.
For that reason we probably did not have any female Flemish Primitives either.

Women involved in medicine were prosecuted in this competitive battle. The men looked for a scapegoat and they got it in the form of the witches.

Intelligent women are not appreciated and most learned women ended up burning at the stake as a witch.

The great persecution of witches during the Renaissance in Europe demanded 60,000 ‘witches’ at the stake.



The official life expectancy of a Renaissance baby was only 25 years.

Taking into account the teething troubles, many young people died before they turned 20, but once past that age, people had a considerable chance of living until the age of 45.

The lifespan was influenced by 2 plague epidemics and by the relatively high infant mortality at that time. The average lifespan for women was 30 years. They often died from childbirth failures or maternity fever.

Society consisted of 60% people under the age of 25. So society was dynamic and young. The marriage age was around 12 years old.

the black death


In 1347, the plague reached Europe, killing about 50 million people.

The rat virus that developed in the open drains of the time spread quickly among the population, killing one third of the population of Europe.

Entire villages were wiped out. Land was left fallow because no one was there to work it. There was nothing for the survivors to eat.

The inhabitants were told that the plague was a punishment from God because of their immoral life. The churches filled up and the population was called to penance by priests.

the 7 deadly sins


In the Last Judgment the 7 deadly sins are discussed.

Anger or revenge (Ira) when farmers fight on a meadow in front of an inn. Associated symbols are the demon Satan and the animals bear and lion.

Envy and jealousy (Invidia) with the snake symbolizing it.

Greed (Avaritia) is the desire for power and money. The crimes that result from this are infidelity and theft.

Gluttony or gluttony (Gula) as a feast in an inn, like a pig.

Laziness or laziness (Acedia) as a rested man who neglects his faith, just like a slow goat or a lazy donkey.

Lust or Luxuria, the Latin name for unchastity, just like a bull. Considered an unwanted derivative from the procreation drive.

Vanity or pride (Superbia) as a woman who admires herself in a mirror held up by a little devil.

Fortunately, there are also 7 virtues in Catholic teaching: Wisdom, Justice, Self-Control, Courage, Faith, Hope, and Love.

The Hell Right panel


Hieronymus Last Judgment

Bosch painted the Last Judgment at least two times.


The first version of Bosch’s triptych about the Last Judgment hangs in the Akademie der bildenden Künste in Vienna. The authentic work is signed by Bosch in 1482.

This Vienna painting was reproduced in the 3D Museum into physical sculptures, consciously choosing the first and original version by Bosch.


The second original triptych of the Last Judgment by Jheronimus Bosch dates from 1486 and hangs in the Groeninge Museum in Bruges. The work largely corresponds to Bosch’s first version in Vienna. Here too the painter breaks with tradition by deliberately leaving out the chosen ones on the way to heaven and portraying the whole world as one hell.

Musea Brugge owns a considerable collection of the Last Judgment from various Flemish Primitives. Not only the version of Bosch, but also that of Jan Provoost and Pieter Pourbus.