You may not recognize the name “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Jheronimus Bosch (sometimes Hieronymus Bosch), but there’s a good chance you’ve seen the painting before.

Here’s a look:

Public Domain, Wikipedia
Public Domain, Wikipedia

It’s a triptych, with creation on the left, hell on the right, and people (seemingly) engaged in earthly sins in the middle, although it’s not exactly clear. The painting is well-known for its strange scenes and symbols – ones that people are still trying to fully understand to this day.

Now there’s a new interactive website that let’s you zoom in and tries to explain what you’re seeing. (Note that the painting is full of mature content – it’s not recommended that children explore it on their own.)

For example, here’s a strange scene (also one of the more tame ones):

Public Domain, Wikipedia
Public Domain, Wikipedia

What does it mean? Here’s what the website says:

It looks innocent enough, a black mould on rye grass. Yet nobody knew at the time that this ‘ergot fungus’ was the cause of ‘the rot’ or gangrene that would turn limbs coal-black. Bosch paints a sawed-off foot to remind us of the story of ergotism, sometimes referred to as St. Anthony’s fire. If you ate bread from the wrong baker, sores would form on your body and eventually your leg would turn black and fall off. In vain, the surgeon might try to save your life by sawing off the affected limb. After ingesting the poisonous argot, limbs would rot away while the mind would be addled by hallucinations, ultimately leading to insanity.

Did Hieronymus Bosch paint his Garden of Earthly Delights while suffering from a bad trip? Although the destructive effects of the ‘mad rye’ were known well before our era, it was not until the 16th century that the discovery was made that the black mould on rye grass was the culprit. Before that time, people believed this condition was the work of the devil. And it was only in the 1950s that a component from the argot was synthesised to produce the psychedelic drugs we know today as LSD.

Fascinating! And there’s a lot more where that came from.

To start exploring it on the new interactive site, click HERE.

[See also: The Stunningly Beautiful Modern Catholic Art of Sheila Diemert]

[See also: 6 of the Oldest Images of Our Lord Jesus Christ]

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