MASTER OF MARY OF BURGUNDY, Mary of Burgundy at Prayer, folios 14 verso and 15 recto of the Hours of
Mary of Burgundy, ca. 1480. Colors and ink on parchment, illumination on left page 7 3/8” X 5 1/8”.
Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna.
LIMBOURG BROTHERS (POL, JEAN, HERMAN),
January, from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de
Berry, 1413–1416. Ink on vellum, approx. 8 7/8" X 5
3/8". Musée Condé, Chantilly.
LIMBOURG BROTHERS (POL, JEAN, HERMAN),
October, from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de
Berry, 1413–1416. Ink on vellum, 8 7/8" X 5 3/8”.
Musée Condé, Chantilly.
ROBERT CAMPIN (MASTER OF FLEMALLE), Merode Altarpiece (open), ca. 1425-1428. Oil on
wood, center panel 2’ 1 3/8” X 2’ 7/8”, each wing 2’ 1 3/8” X 10 7/8”. Metropolitan Museum of Art,
New York (The Cloisters Collection, 1956).
The woman below him lies within a
semi-cylindrical transparent shield,
while her mouth is sealed, devices
implying that she bears a secret.
One woman carries a cherry on her
head, a common symbol of pride at
the time, as can be deduced from
the contemporaneous saying:
"Don't eat cherries with great lords–
they'll throw the pits in your face."
According to the second and third
chapters of Genesis, Adam and Eve's
children were born after they were
expelled from Eden. This has led some
commentators, in particular Belting, to
theorise that the panel represents the
world if the two had not been driven out
"among the thorns and thistles of the
world". In Fränger's view, the scene
a Utopia, a garden of divine delight
before the Fall, or—since Bosch could
not deny the existence of the dogma of
Original Sin—a millennial condition that
would arise if, after expiation of Original
Sin, humanity were permitted to return
to Paradise and to a state of tranquil
harmony embracing all Creation.
Detail showing nudes
cavorting within a transparent
sphere. What appear to be
cracks in the sphere, may
forecast the fragility of joyful
passion. The figures' arms
are entwined, while the
female's head bends towards
the male's attentive mouth.
Their innocence contrasts
with the atmosphere of the
right-hand panel, where
human figures are depicted
in shame of their nakedness.[
Symbolism in Bosch Paintings…
• Pigs = false priests; gluttony
• Fruit = carnal pleasure
• Rats = lies against the
Church; filth; sex
• Fish = false prophets; lewdness
• Closed Books = futility of
knowledge in dealing with human
• Keys = knowledge
• Lutes and Harps = instruments
for praise of God and pursuit of
• Ears = gossip
• Mussel Shells = infidelity
• Black Birds = unbelievers
• Knives = punishment of evil
• Rabbits = multiplication of the
• Eggs = sexual creation
• Funnels = deceit and
• Strawberries = fleeting joys of
• Owls = great learning/knowledge
• Wilhelm Fraenger argued that the
triptych's center panel portrays a joyous
world when humanity will experience a
rebirth of the innocence enjoyed by
Adam and Eve before their fall. In his
book The Millennium of Hieronymus
Bosch, Fraenger wrote that Bosch was a
member of the heretical sect known as
the Adamites — who were also known
as the Homines intelligentia and
Brethren and Sisters of the Free Spirit.
This radical group, active in the area of
the Rhine and the Netherlands, strove
for a form of spirituality immune from sin
even in the flesh and imbued the
concept of lust with a paradisical
• Fraenger believed The Garden of
Earthly Delights was commissioned by
the order's Grand Master. Later critics
have agreed that, because of their
obscure complexity, Bosch's
"altarpieces" may well have been
commissioned for non-devotional
purposes. The Homines intelligentia
cult sought to regain the innocent
sexuality enjoyed by Adam and Eve
before the Fall. Fraenger writes that
the figures in Bosch's work "are
peacefully frolicking about the tranquil
garden in vegetative innocence, at one
with animals and plants and the
sexuality that inspires them seems to
be pure joy, pure bliss."
PIETER BRUEGEL THE ELDER, Netherlandish Proverbs, 1559. Oil on wood, 3’ 10” x 5’ 4 1/8”.
Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen, Berlin.
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