The motif of love in late medieval art with reference to the works of Hieronymus Bosch

The module will allow the viewer to actively confront the late medieval work of the master H. Bosch and enable reflection on the representation of love in art.

The motif of love is extremely often taken up in art, it runs through many works of painting, literature or film. It is impossible to name all the varieties of love, to close in one definition the phenomenon that is love. From the romantic or erotic one, through agape, the Christian variety of love, and ending with maternal and platonic love. It would be even more difficult to create a complete list of works that thematize love. This testifies to the power of this motif, to its importance in the context of the authentic experience of each person. Both today and in the past, the motif has been taken up by artists, but the intentions and motivations of the creator are not always clear. This is, among others, the case of Bosch and the triptych “Garden of Earthly Delights”.

Through participation in the lesson, the participant will actively confront the work of H. Bosch. He will make an attempt at his own statement on the status of love in the context of the most recognizable and at the same time intimidating work of H. Bosch, “The Garden of Earthly Delights”. He will consider traditional readings of the painting work, as well as its reinterpretations.

Bosch’s painting with its multiplicity of interpretations still arouses many emotions today, provokes new readings, stimulates the imagination, including that of contemporary viewers and artists. These try to look at Bosch’s painting through their interpretive filters, as exemplified by works that refer to “The Garden…” and make it an important point of reference.

Interpreters reflect on the essence of love, the intimate relationship that unites people in the central part of the triptych by H. Bosch. With dependent works, the continuators of Bosch’s legacy attempt to answer the question to what extent should the relations connecting the figures depicted in the painting be burdened by a religious context, and thus considered in terms of original sin and guilt? Researchers, viewers and interpreters spin fantasies related to the message of the painting. Everyone would like to believe that contemporaries also have the right to their own reading of this work, also ignoring the historical or religious context.

Bosch’s painting has found itself in the orbit of interest of literature, poetic texts, film images (both fictional and documentary transmissions). It is also an object of cultural history research exemplified by Antoni Ziemba’s interesting discussion and analysis in the study “Art of Burgundy and the Netherlands 1380-1500. Volume II. Dutch panel painting 1430-1500”.


The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch, 1503–1515

Access to an interactive image:


Perception of a painting work (reproduction, website, repositories of painting works) is the starting point for learning about prose and film works (contexts) that relate to the source text. The discussion can be accompanied by the presentation of documentary film excerpts, listening to engaged sung poetry, silent reading of the novel text. An important activity is to see the connections between the work of medieval painting and the impact on contemporary artists, who use Bosch’s content in a completely different historical context (Kaczmarski), the context of private and intimate history (Majewski) sometimes changing those most traditional and conservative readings (documentaries on Bosch’s work) of the Bosch triptych.

The teaching content of art history is combined with the content of film studies, literary studies, cultural history. Through the analysis of selected and diverse cultural content, the participant broadens his horizons in the above-mentioned fields of the humanities.


  • Sztuka Burgundii i Niderlandów 1380-1500. Tom II. Niderlandzkie malarstwo tablicowe 1430-1500, Antoni Ziemba (2011)
  • Siedem wieków malarstwa europejskiego, Maria Rzepińska (1988)
  • Dictionary of fine arts, Fritz Winzer, (2000)
  • Geniuses of painting. Bosch. Between reality and the world of fantasy, Allesia Devitini Dufour (2002),
  • Słownik mitów i tradycji kultury, Władysław Kopaliński (2015)
  • Jerome Bosch. A great collection of famous painters, Oxford Educational (2007)
  • Bosch, Wilhelm Fraenger (1999)


  • Bosch. Garden of Delights, by Jose Luis Lopez Linares (2016)
  • Jerome Bosch. The devil with the wings of an angel, by Eve Ramboze i Nathalie Plicot (2017)

Author of the module and the script: Edyta Zachurzok

Mental task

Creative task: A recipe for a culinary masterpiece

According to Wikipedia, the triptych by Bosch known as ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ wasregistered in the Spanish Royal inventory as ‘The painting with a strawberry tree fruit’ wherethe strawberry or maybe even wild strawberry fruit are presented not only as food productbut also as means of transport or a peculiar shelter. Basing on different sources, Bosch workswere given various titles including: “The strawberry plantation’ or ‘ Of vain fame and theunique/ faint taste of a strawberry or a wild strawberry’. Those delicious fruit being able tofind in some old/ previous names of the Bosch painting, remind the first sweet…

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