The Garden of Earthly Delights
Evidently, in a closed condition, the triptych does not display much delight at all. What we see instead is a grayish pre-Copernican representation of the cosmos; the yet unfinished cosmos on the third or forth day of creation. We see the Earth as flat disc, contained in a glass-like sphere. This is probably an allusion toPsalm 33 which says that God “gathers together as in a bottle all the waters of the sea.” The same Psalm 33 is also quoted in the inscription on the painting which reads:
Ipse dixit, et facta sunt: Ipse mandavit, et creata sunt
, "He spoke,and they were made: he commanded, and they were created."
Slide show, left panel, with full commentary
Slide show, center panel, with full commentary
Slide show, right panel, with full commentary
"Garden of Earthly Delights."
McLean looks at the painting through an artist's eyes. He does not impose some external interpretation as most other commentators do, but instead forensically investigates the structure and the imagery used by Bosch to form his painting.
McLean thus, perhaps for the first time, has been able to cut through the seeming enigmatic nature of this painting, and shows that it is structured around a coherent pictorial narrative. Each symbol, each group of figure, the strange forms and metamorphosed animals are shown to fit into this narrative which McLean has found in the structure of the work.
These four videos provide a clear explanation of the painting based on its internal structure, without recourse to importing external interpretations.