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The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch as a dream to be deciphered

Michael, Meinhard

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The text presented here is an English version of my essay ‚Der Garten der Lüste als Traum – der zu entschlüsseln ist‘, Art-Dok Heidelberg 2017, with references also to later publications and with further additions. It is an extended version of the relevant chapter of the author’s study: ‘Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. The Senses and the Soul in Dream and Awakening’ (2018). The proposition is that Jheronimus or Hieronymus Bosch painted the Garden of Earthly Delights as a sensual dream of a concrete figure which is shown in the picture itself. The dream also contains a vision and, with that, an appeal to the dreamer herself. The foreground figure in the cave is understood to be the woman who has had the dream. Using a slightly varied topos from illuminations in medieval manuscripts both, the dreamer and the content of the dream, appear simultaneously in the same picture. Subsequently, further details are discussed of significance to the relationship between dream and dreamer. It is shown how the depicted dream modifies the convention of the representations of dreams, emphasising its originality – the telling of the dream in the moment of awakening. It is assumed that the dreamer experienced a ‘mixed dream’, combining fantastic and seductive details with ‘a code for moral conduct’. Another factor is that the nature of this ‘recognition dream’ is metaphorical and requires interpretation. The Garden of Earthly Delight’s mystery then becomes accessible. It is suggested that a passage from William of St. Thierry’s Golden Epistle could serve to reveal an understanding of the Garden of Earthly Delights. The last part of the essay outlines how the awakening from the dream draws the painting together rhetorically as well as allegorically.

Document type: Article
Date: 2020
Version: Primary publication
Date Deposited: 14 May 2020 10:16
Faculties / Institutes: Research Project, Working Group > Individuals
DDC-classification: Painting
Controlled Keywords: Bosch, Hieronymus / Garten der Lüste, Guilelmus <de Sancto Theodorico> / Epistola ad fratres de Monte-Dei, Traum <Motiv>
Subject (classification): Artists, Architects
Countries/Regions: Benelux