Hieronymous Bosch produced some of the most inventive fantasy paintings that have ever existed. His obsessive and nightmarish vision has its antecedents in the Gothic twilight world of the late Middle Ages and, although the allegorical medieval world view is now lost, there have been many recent attempts to 'read' his pictures, not least by those who have attempted to interpret Bosch by dream analysis. The Garden of Earthly Delights demonstrates Bosch's dazzling ability to build up a hugely detailed landscape through a series of bizarre exaggerations and distortions. The complete work consists of four paintings on a series of folding panels; the outer panel reveals the Third Day of Creation when closed. Inside, The Garden of Earthly Delights is flanked on the left by the Garden of Eden and on the right by Hell.
A wild sexual orgy features in the central panel, where lust is shown to be the cause of man's downfall. There are over a thousand figures in this work altogether. Standing alone in its lifetime, Bosch's work has a timeless and modern quality that greatly endeared him to Surrealists in the twentieth century.