Bosch, Hieronymus (1450-1516) - 1503-04 Garden of Delights (The Prado)
The Garden of Earthly Delights is a triptych painted by Hieronymus Bosch housed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. The masterpiece reveals the artist at the height of his powers; in no other painting does he achieve such complexity of meaning or such vivid imagery. The triptych depicts several biblical scenes on a grand scale and as a "true triptych", as defined by Hans Belting, was probably intended to illustrate the history of mankind according to medieval Christian doctrine.
The triptych is painted in oil and comprises a square middle panel flanked by two rectangular wings that can close over the center as shutters The three scenes of the inner triptych are probably intended to be read chronologically from left to right. The left panel depicts God presenting to Adam the newly created Eve, while the central panel is a broad panorama of sexually engaged nude figures, fantastical animals, oversized fruit and hybrid stone formations. The right panel is a hellscape and portrays the torments of damnation.
It is not known whether "The Garden" was intended as an altarpiece, but the general view is that the extreme subject matter of the inner center and right panels make it unlikely that it was intended to function in a church or monastery, but was instead commissioned by a lay patron.