As a big fan of weird art, you can imagine my excitement when I learned that a group of people decide to make a VERY high-resolution digital copy of Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ available to just go ahead and zoom in on. This is one of those paintings that I’ve always seen one of two ways: Too small to make out (and probably a random side note in a textbook), or as a close-up of one of the Hell parts.
As a result, I’ve had no idea just how bonkers crazy the rest of the image is. I’ve singled out the best parts here, and to my amazement, only one of the areas I selected is from the Hell 1/3 of the triptych. It turns out that a lot of these “earthly delights” are more startling and questionable than I might have anticipated.
1. Owl Party
“What is even happening?” the owl wonders to himself. “How do those people fit into the flower bud like that? What is with that guy’s head? Is he a guy with a blueberry on his head or is he more like a fruit that blossomed into a human body?” That is the face of an owl wondering just what the hell is going on.
2. Please Mr. Duck, Just One More Berry
Whatever is happening here, at least it can be said it is a hell of a party. Some kind of berry-themed party as becomes increasingly clear. But my God, you can look at this for ages and not know what is going on. At the top of my list is that duck. Either he’s kind of like the evil snake from the Bible and the 1500s Netherlands had very flexible ideas of what a serpent was… or he’s some sort of awesome duck who knows party tricks. In fact, he might even be balancing on the legs of those hand-standing egg people! Amazing!
3. This Weird Dog
First you see the giraffe, and you think, “Huh, that’s kind of a weird giraffe. I bet Bosch only saw drawings of them and didn’t know that they’re gentle and not kind of mean-looking.” And then you see the dog, and you wonder what the hell kind of world this guy grew up in. And then you look at it longer and you think that maybe it’s actually kind of cute, like one of those Imperial Walkers from Return of the Jedi but with a little dachshund face. But then you picture it actually trying to walk and it’s not cute any more, never mind. And then you notice the scale of the other animals and you know it’s time to move on or your brain is gonna break.
4. Owl Party of One
This owl is only barely tolerating the man’s presence, but you get the impression that people tend to hug him a lot and he’s gotten used to it. Just look at that guy at the bottom. He’s thinking that he can’t wait to hug the owl next.
On closer inspection the guy is kind of making ‘Ta-daa’ hands around the owl, as opposed to outright hugging it and I feel that this is totally understandable.
5. Something Weird is Going On With This Bird
I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something a little weird about this bird.
6. Oh my God, There’s a Unicorn Cat
Not only is there a unicorn cat but it’s also the cutest damn thing in the entire painting. There is even a dude sitting on him making a weird sex pose and that cat don’t even care! He knows there’s a giant fish in for him later. How do I know it’s a “he?” Well, it’s because everything here has testicles. But that’s okay. Just look at that cat put the other unicorn to shame. For shame, other unicorn!
7. An H.R. Giger Nightmare Courts a Mermaid
It really says something when you are looking at a horde of people crawling out of a lake and into an egg, a naked furry berry party, and a guy getting a massage from a deer, and the only thing you can possibly look at is that goddamn fish monster. Being Hieronymus Bosch must have been terrifying if this is the kind of dance partner he chooses for a little mermaid. “Hey Hieronymus, I need you to make my wife a birthday card. She really likes mermaids so… Oh sweet God why!”
8. How To Clamber Onto a Fish
You do it like this. Also: look at that bug. Everything else is starting to look kind of normal at this point.
9. Vacuuming Up Some Birds
We need these birds for our egg castle.
10. All the Drunkest Organisms
All of God’s little accidents are hanging around this pond. These are the ones that didn’t make it past the beta testing I guess, which is a shame because that platypus looking thing is straight up reading a book. The human race could have had a friendly animal pal to talk to and hang out with! Where did it even get that thing? Why is the unicorn swimming laps in this gross pond? Is the rooster just passing through? So many questions go unanswered, but hey, at least that fish is having the time of his life.
11. The Flower Game
Sure, why not?
12. Like to Play Backgammon? Looks Like it’s Hell for You.
If playing backgammon is all it takes to get you a one way ticket to the dark realm, imagine how screwed we all are today. Backgammon is probably the most harmless game I can think of. What would these old-timey people think of Pokemon? A random number generator must be like rolling a million dice at once. On the other hand, maybe that demon just doesn’t know what’s up. Everyone else is getting slaughtered and he ‘s all “Who wants to play board games?” And that one guy is like “I do!”
SCORE: A flower bulb eggshell tower of berries and bird-worshiping naked people dancing forever through history.
See the painting here. With actual explanations, even.