The Garden of Earthly Delights

Image credit: Wellcome Collection

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A reduced copy by an unknown painter of the central panel of a triptych by Hieronymus Bosch, which is now in the Museo del Prado, Madrid. Apart from Bosch's autograph version of his composition, three sixteenth-century copies are recorded, the other two being in Paris and Budapest. The subject of the picture is problematic, but most scholars interpret it as a condemnation of the pleasures of the senses. The first author to leave a specific description of Bosch's composition, Fray José de Siguenza, referred to it in 1605 as "el quadro del madroño" (the picture of the strawberry), interpreting the gigantic strawberry near the centre as a typically transient object of the senses of smell and taste. The scholar E. H. Gombrich refined this interpretation by suggesting that the people depicted are intended to be those who lived before the Flood: among other reasons for this identification, a popular mediaeval text, the 'Historia scholastica' of Peter Comestor (twelfth century) states that the Earth was less fertile after the Flood than before, when fruit and flowers had grown to enormous sizes (as in Bosch's picture) and mankind had been vegetarian.


The Garden of Earthly Delights


16th C/early 17th C


oil on wood


H 132 x W 113.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

purchased by Henry S. Wellcome, c.1900–1936

Work type



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