The Garden of Earthly Delights: A diachronic interpretation of Hieronymus Bosch’s masterpiece

Open to the Public
Nador u. 13
Thursday, December 8, 2011 - 6:00pm
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Thursday, December 8, 2011 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm


This lecture will present a richly illustrated interpretation of Hieronymus Bosch’s enigmatic masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights (ca. 1500-1505). It will make two arguments which deviate from the mainstream of scholarship on the Dutch painter. Firstly, while contemporary literature may provide explanations for many details in Bosch’s painting, it cannot account for the larger iconographic program which relies considerably on the stock of religious knowledge accumulated over centuries, reaching back to early Christianity. Secondly, Bosch’s masterpiece makes an original theological argument, one that is without parallel in textual sources. This argument, neither orthodox nor blatantly heretical, opens a unique perspective on the character of Divine creation and the predicament of human existence.

Matthias Riedl is associate professor of history at Central European University, Budapest, Director of CEU’s Religious Studies Program, and Chair of Comparative Religious Studies. He holds a PhD from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany. Before moving to Budapest, he taught at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany and Duke University, Durham, USA. His research interests are the history of Western Christianity, the relationship between religion and politics, and political theology from an intercivilizational perspective. He is the author of a monograph on the 12th century apocalyptic writer Joachim of Fiore (2004), has written articles on the history of religious and political thought, and is co-editor of the Eranos volumes in comparative religious studies including The Ordering of Time (2003), Prophets and Prophecies (2005), Humans at War, at Peace with Nature (2006), Religions – The Religious Experience (2008), God or Gods? (2009), The City – Center and Axis of the World (2011).