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Analysis of Two Scenes for Bosch’s Triptych

At first glance, the fons vitae, which is found in the left panel of the triptych interestingly, seems to resemble the anatomical fallopian tube (inverted) of the female which is a major part of the female reproductive system; appropriately so because this element of the painting is referred to as the ‘fountain of life’. On close inspection, however, the lower portion of the painting, which could as well represent the womb, has a hole with an owl in it.

The owl was used to symbolize many things across cultures, from wisdom, mystery, intuition, intensity of thought and perceptiveness. In China, Egypt, and India, however, the owl represented death, or more accurately, the guardian of the afterlife. (Venefica) Another interpretation would be from a masculine perspective – the fountain could also be a phallic symbol, and the single globe beneath it with the hole, could symbolize male sterility (as males normally have two testicles).

In either case, the hole and owl detail in the painting could very well represent the emptiness of death; the fountain of life as a source of life is defeated in this painting in that with the owl and the hole on it, it could actually mean that sex is not used for procreation in this case but for mere sexual pleasure. The same detail in the left panel of the triptych appears in the center panel minus the owl; instead, the owl is replaced with dark-skinned people, who might as well be representations of demons.

The initial interpretation of the fountain of life not being used for its prescribed purpose very well applies to the recurrence of the same detail in the center panel. In both panels, it will be noticed that the fountain spurts water that collects at the bottom where animals (left panel) and people (center panel) bathe. Both details of the water being used as bathing could Analysis of Two 3

very well nail the interpretation that instead of the fountain being used to create life, it is used for pleasure. The World before the Flood: In the center panel of the triptych I was particularly drawn to the scene where flowers are stuck into a man’s anus. At first, I could not decipher what this meant, but when I did some research on the internet regarding the painting; this particular detail became clear to me. It merely represents sodomy as being one of the sins portrayed in the triptych.

If the entire painting is carefully studied, it will be noticed that the same detail occurs over and over; at the upper, rightmost portion of the center panel, there are men in a circle with crows perched on their butts, and one of the crows has its beak in the man’s anus, at the right central portion of the right panel, a man who seems to be carrying an instrument has a flute inserted into his anus, and finally, beneath the man-tree in the right panel is a ladder with a man on it, the man has an arrow jammed up his anus.

(Art News Blog) If taken into consideration, all these scenes depict empty pleasure and its consequence when a person is sent to hell. The center panel scenes of this nature more or less show plain pleasure with the flower and the crow, which, by the way, is also a representation of the male sex organ (the crow).

Similar scenes in the right panel, though, show an arrow and a flute instead of the implements used in the center panel; so instead, this particular panel probably shows the hellish pain that would result from the sodomy shown in the center panel; sodomy being just a single feature of lewdness and lust, which is mentioned as a central theme for the triptych in an article by Cyberia (1999). Analysis of Two 4 References Hieronymus Bosch (1999).

Retrieved February 25, 2009, from http://www. morbidoutlook. com/art/articles/1999_00_bosch. html The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch (n. d. ). Retrieved February 25, 2009, from http://www. artnewsblog. com/2009/01/garden-of-earthly-delights-by. htm Venetica, A. (2007). Owl Symbolism – Deeper Meaning of Owl. Retrieved February 25, 2009, from http://symbolic-meanings. com/2007/08/14/owl-symbolism-deeper-meaning-of-owl/

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