Surprising Black&White

Posted on September 20, 2010 by Hans Aarsman

Years ago I visited the Prado in Madrid. I spent an hour in front of The Garden Of Delight by Hieronymus Bosch. Just click on the image to enlarge it.
I thought I was looking at three paintings, it’s a triptych. I didn’t know I was actually looking at four paintings until recently I came across this image on the internet: the backside of the triptych, the painting you will  see if the Garden of Delight is closed.

There, in black&white, the third day of creation is depicted. Skies, rocks and plants are present, no human beings yet. An old bearded man, supposedly God, is sitting in the top left corner, a book in his hand. The bible, no doubt. What’s the bible doing there?

The third day of creation many things written in the bible still had to happen. 

If you open the two black&white panels you make a leap in time, man has arrived on earth. The grays have disappeared, colors are abundant.
Left panel God introducing Adam and Eve to each other.
Middle panel what came out of their acquaintance: a panorama of physically engaged nude humans and animals.
Right panel the hell, the final destiny for the creatures in the middle panel.
Exactly like it was written in the bible, the book God is reading on the backside. Are these panels implying human fate was already set? In other words, we can’t help the mess we make out of creation? 
The black&white on the outside is used here like a primer. No matter how colorful the proceedings on the inside of the triptych, destination is written down, fixed, no escape.  Have you ever seen black&white used in a more spatial, time-traveling, meaningful way?

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