BOSCH, Hieronymus
(b. ca. 1450, 's-Hertogenbosch, d. 1516, 's-Hertogenbosch)

The Seven Deadly Sins

c. 1480
Oil on panel, 120 x 150 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

This is one of Bosch's earliest known works and reflects the style and preoccupation which would later come to be considered characteristic of him. It belonged to Philip II King of Spain, who kept it in his apartments at the monastery of the Escorial.

The Seven Deadly Sins is a painted rectangle with a central image of the eye of God with Christ watching the world. The Seven Deadly Sins, depicted through scenes of worldly transgression, are arranged around the circular shape. The circular layout with God in the centre represents God's all seeing eye: No sin goes unnoticed. In the corners of the image appear the "Four Last Things" (the last four stages of life) mentioned in late medieval spiritual handbooks: Deathbed, Last Judgment, Heaven, and Hell, all of which are favourite themes of separate Bosch panels.

In the centre, fanned out around the figure of Christ, appear seven scenes each illustrating one of the Seven Deadly Sins, bearing the appropriate inscription and composed with the painter's usual vivacity and sense of the fantastic. (1) Anger presents a scene of jealousy and conflict; (2) in Pride, a demon presents a woman with a mirror; (3) in Lust, two sets of lovers speak within the confines of an open tent, entertained by a buffoon, while on the ground outside lie various musical instruments, including a harp which will reappear in the 'Garden of Earthly Delights'; (4) Idleness is represented by a woman dressed up for church and trying to wake a man deep in slumber; (5) Gluttony shows a table spread with food and around it figures eating voraciously; (6) Avarice displays a judge allowing himself to be bribed; and (7) Envy depicts the Flemish proverb 'Two dogs with one bone seldom reach agreement'.