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

Last Judgment Triptych (right wing)

Mixed technique on panel, 167 x 60 cm
Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Vienna

The right wing of the triptych represents the Hell.

Bosch must have been familiar with contemporary texts describing Hell. Their influence can be seen not only in his rendering of specific punishments, but also in the general topography of his Hell, including such features as the burning pits and furnaces, and the lakes and rivers in which the damned are immersed. Some of his monsters are also derived from traditional literary and visual sources. The vaguely anthropomorphic devils occur in many earlier Last Judgment scenes. Traditional, too, are the toads, adders and dragons which crawl over the rocks or gnaw at the vital parts of their victims.

Into this more or less conventional fauna of Hell, however, Bosch introduced new and more frightening species whose complex forms defy precise description. Many display bizarre fusions of animal and human elements, sometimes combined with inanimate objects. To this group belongs the bird-like monster who helps carry a giant knife in the centre panel; his torso develops into a fish tail and two humanoid legs, shod in a pair of jars. To the right an upturned basket darts forward on legs, a sword clutched in its mailed fist. Disembodied heads scuttle about on stubby limbs; others possess bodies and limbs which glow in the darkness. Several fiends blow musical instruments thrust into their hind quarters, bringing to mind the farting devil encountered by Dante (Inferno, XXI, 139).