Saturday, April 11, 2015

Last Judgment Scenes in Art History

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Read Stokstad 516-553
315-750 (1300) CE Early Christian/Byzantine
(some sources say the Byzantine style survived all the way to 1450)
800-1150  Romanesque
1150-1350 Gothic
Romanesque Sculpture The Romanesque style, according to Stokstad, means "in the Roman manner." In essence, it merely refers to the fact that many of the cathedrals built in this time period had the appearance of Roman architecture.
  • Tympanum: the surface enclosed by the arch and lintel of an arched doorway, frequently carved with relief sculptures.
  • Archivolt: the molding fram an arch. In Romanesque and Gothic architecture, each one of a series of arches framing the tympanum of a portal.
  • Lintel: a horizontal beam spanning an openings, as over a window or door, or between two posts.
  • Trumeau: doorpost supporting lintel.
  • Jamb: the side of a doorway or window frame. The jambs of the portals of Romanesque and Gothic churches are frequently decorated with figure sculpture.

 

St. Lazare, Autun Cathedral, Burgundy France
West Portal, sculpted by Gislebertus c1130CE
St. Lazare, Autun Cathedral, France
West Portal, sculpted by Gislebertus c1130CE
Form: St. Lazare Cathedral. Romanesque.  This is a large relief carving that was originally painted.  The composition is symmetrical and organized using hieratic scale.  The picture plane is also organized according to horizontal bands each filled with figures that are pushed up against the front of the picture plane.  There is no creation of deep space in this relief sculpture. According to the Brittanica,
Typically, the figure of Christ appears in the centre of the composition, dominant in size and usually enclosed in a mandorla (an oval, nimbus-like form). At his right and left are the four Evangelists, sometimes represented or accompanied by their animal symbols. To the sides, smaller figures of angels and demons weigh sins of the resurrected dead, who are ranked along the lowest and smallest section of the tympanum, directly above the lintel.

Iconography: What makes St. Lazare an interesting example of Romanesque architecture and art is the fact that the west portal, which depicts  a "sermon in stone," was originally painted. It is exceedingly well organized and stylized. This means that the figures represented in the relief sculpture are non naturalistic, this is akin to what one would see in Byzantine art. The figures relative size is based not on reality, but  on their spiritual importance. 
Jesus, as the central figure is shown impossibly huge the figures around him are depicting judgment, heaven and hell, and good and evil. The organization of the composition is designed so that all of the other figures relate in some way to the central figure of Jesus.  Figures who are to the right of Christ are literally on his good side while the figures to his left are not.  Likewise there is a hierarchy according to placement in the three bands.  The correlation between left and right (good and evil) does not exist in the topmost band.  Anything placed in the uppermost register of the composition is "good" or heavenly.
Around this interior depiction of a sermon one can see the various signs of the zodiac, which brings forth one of the main differences between the Romanesque and the Gothic style of art within a cathedral, in a Romanesque cathedral one can easily find depiction's of events and symbols that are not necessarily related to what is found in the bible. In a Gothic cathedral, by contrast, the emphasis is put mainly on biblical scenes, and scenes with Jesus in particular.
Context: In Romanesque art, the emphasis to the followers was teaching. The scenes shown in almost all of the artwork found at St. Lazare are intended to teach a morality lesson, tell a story, or establish a sort of religious iconography of good and evil. For example, almost everything in this piece is representative of something else. The arch above Jesus and the scene surrounding him is representative of heaven. The sinners are always found to the left of Jesus, and the believers to the right. Everything in Romanesque art and architecture is highly organized and made to to make it easy for the followers to read the meaning and the message that the church intends.
According to a former student, Maureen Lara,
 
From first glance, one could already see the hierarchy established through the use of three separate levels as well as the scale involved in placing the relatively large sculpture of Jesus in the center enclosed in a glorifying mandorla.    (The topmost level is an exception in the hierarchy since it represents the heavens; the entire band consists of "good" people.  )  The symmetry of the art, to my perspective, expresses the way the world and one's fate after death revolves around how well one learns from and lives their lives according to the teachings of Jesus. The art overall exhibits no deep space and is stylized rather than naturalistic.   Interestingly, the art is organized in such a way that the figures considered good and worthy of the kingdom of God are to Jesus' right and those who fail the last judgment because of sinfulness are to His left.   The smaller size of the figures in the bottom-most band indicates those who await their judgment before the Lord.   The sizes of the figures as well as their placement in the hierarchy are done in accordance to their religious importance.   This can be scene in St. Peter, who is said to be the gatekeeper of Heaven; he is larger in size than the other believers as well as the angels.   The main storyline of the scenes is centered around the battle between good and evil and triumph of one or the other during the weighing of souls after death.   The consequences of being good are illustrated, for instance, by the faithful children joyfully playing with angels to Jesus' right.   The rewards of goodness are also expressed by the graceful appearance of the angels, a persuasive element in the art that urges people to be righteous.
According to the Brittanica,
 
Christianity, further developing the concept of the Last Judgment, teaches that it will occur at the Parousia (the Second Coming, or Second Advent, of Christ in glory), when all men will stand before a judging God. In early Christian art the scene is one of Christ the judge, the resurrection of the dead, the weighing of souls, the separation of the saved and the damned, and representations of paradise and hell. Romanesque artists produced a more terrible vision of the Last Judgment: Christ is shown as a stern judge, sometimes carrying a sword and surrounded by the four mystical beasts--eagle, lion, ox, and winged man--of the apocalypse; the contrast between paradise and hell is between the awesome and the ferocious. In the gentler, more humanistic art of the Gothic period, a beautiful Christ is shown as the Redeemer, his right side undraped to reveal the wound of the lance, and both wounded hands raised high in a gesture that emphasizes his sacrifice. He is surrounded by the instruments of his Passion--cross, nails, lance, and crown of thorns. The intercessors are restored, and the scene of the Judgment is treated with optimism. In the 16th century, Michelangelo produced a radically different version of the Last Judgment in his fresco in the Sistine Chapel in Rome (1533-41): a vengeful Christ, nude like a pagan god, gestures menacingly toward the damned.


The "elect" rising.
According to Gardener's, the figure at the bottom far right 
has a bag ornamented with a cross and a shell, 
symbols of pilgrims who have journeyed to Jerusalem 
and Santiago de Compostela.
The iconography found on select parts of the tympanum clearly show what happens to the 'good' believers. The smaller figures beneath represent the righteous and the faithful, which includes the children, seen playing with an angel. The Angels are always depicted as elegant, benevolent, beautiful, and kind. This was to give the impression that heaven was a wonderful place, and would inspire the believers into being good and faithful servants of the church.

Peter and the elect
Here, on the right side of Jesus is St. Peter with the faithful. Note again how he depicted as larger than the followers, and even larger than the angels. This shows his relative importance in the spiritual hierarchy.


Pulled to judgment
Though at first one would think this was a depiction of suffering, in truth its meant to show that after the death of this believer, the hands of an angel reach down to pull him heavenward, assuring that his soul has been save.

 


The Judgment
The Damned and the weighing of the souls
On the left side of Jesus is Evil, the Devil and his minions who are participating in the weighing of the souls. In this judgment scene, one can see the Devil and the Archangel Michael both taking part in the judgment. While it appears that the Devil is trying to pull the scale downward in order to be able to claim another soul, Michael appears to be attempting to lift the soul upward, in order to claim the soul for heaven. Though it is a small vignette, it illustrate rather succinctly the struggle of good and evil in the souls of mankind. Note how in contrast to the angel Michael, the Devil is portrayed as emaciated, grotesque, and as terrifying as the stone masons could portray. This was to remind the members of the church how awful hell was, and frighten them into submission. 


Paul makes a last attempt
Here, though it is technically the left, or 'bad' side of Jesus, We see St. Paul and the Angel make a last attempt to pull the damned souls to redemption. Hoping that through the call of the heavenly trumpet, man will be swayed to the side of God. 

 

Sleeping Magi
This relief sculpture is found in the capital above the choir in St. Lazare. It is a rather tender depiction of the sleeping Magi, better known as the 'three wise men' and the Angel who is trying to waken them to view the star over Bethlehem, signaling the birth of Jesus. One of the wise men is shown with his eyes half open in sleep, just beginning to awaken and set forth on the journey to bear their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The sculpture is characteristically diagrammatic and takes liberty with proportion in order to once again show the importance of the individual through their relative size.



 
 
Context:  A quick overview provided by Brittanica:
 
Giotto's Arena Chapel 1305-1306 also called Scrovegni Chapel (consecrated March 25, 1305), small chapel built in the first years of the 14th century in Padua, Italy, by Enrico Scrovegni and containing frescoes by the Florentine painter Giotto.  A "Last Judgment" covers the entire west wall. The rest of the chapel is covered with frescoes in three tiers representing scenes from the lives of Saints Joachim and Anna, the life of the Virgin, the Annunciation, and the Life and Passion of Christ, concluding with the Pentecost. Below the three narrative bands is a fourth containing monochrome personifications of the virtues and vices. The frescoes were completed in or before 1309, and they are generally dated about 1305-06. There is thus no very generally agreed picture of Giotto's early development. It is some relief, therefore, to turn to the fresco cycle in the chapel in Padua known as the Arena or Scrovegni Chapel. Its name derives from the fact that it was built on the site of a Roman amphitheatre by Enrico Scrovegni, the son of a notorious usurer mentioned by Dante. The founder is shown offering a model of the church in the huge "Last Judgment," which covers the whole west wall.
"Arena Chapel."   Britannica 2001 Standard Edition CD-ROM.   Copyright © 1994-2001 Britannica.com Inc.   November 16, 2002. 
 The rest of the small, bare church is covered with frescoes in three tiers representing scenes from the lives of Joachim and Anna, the life of the Virgin, the Annunciation (on the chancel arch), and the life and Passion of Christ, concluding with Pentecost. Below these three narrative bands is a fourth containing monochrome personifications of the Virtues and Vices. The chapel was apparently founded in 1303 and consecrated on March 25, 1305. It is known that the frescoes were completed in or before 1309, and they are generally dated c. 1305-06, but even with several assistants it must have taken at least two years to complete so large a cycle. The frescoes are in relatively good condition, and all that has been said of Giotto's power to render the bare essentials of a setting with a few impressive and simple figures telling the story as dramatically and yet as economically as possible is usually based on the narrative power that is the fundamental characteristic of these frescoes. These dominating figures, simple and severe, similar to those in the Assisi cycle but placed in settings of more formal abstraction and rendered with more grandeur, are the quintessence of his style, and anatomy and perspective were used--or even invented--by him as adjuncts to his narrative gifts. He never attained to the skill that so often, in fact, misled the men of the 15th and 16th centuries. In the Padua frescoes the details are always significant, whereas it is a characteristic of the Assisi cycle that there occurs from time to time a delighted dwelling on details that are not absolutely essential to the story.
 "Paduan period."   Britannica 2001 Standard Edition CD-ROM.   Copyright © 1994-2001 Britannica.com Inc.   November 16, 2002. 
Form: The frescos are executed in a combination of buon fresco and fresco secco.  According to Webster's Dictionary, fresco is "the art of painting on freshly spread moist lime plaster with water-based pigments."   Fresco is a term that literally means "fresh."  There are two kinds, buon fresco and fresco secco.  This painting painting is made by coating a wall with plaster and while the wall is still damp, ground up pigments are mixed with water and lime and painted on the wall.  The paint soaks in and literally stains the wall up to a half an inch and becomes permanent.  This is called buon fresco (good fresh).  Details with more expensive colors (such as blue made from lapis lazuli) are added with tempera paint (egg yolks and glue) when the fresco is dry.  This is called secco fresco (dry fresh). 
This technique was first developed in Rome and you can still see some really good examples of early fresco dating from 79 CE in Pompeii.
The arrangement of the frescoes in the Arena Chapel actually adds to the frescoes meanings.   In order to better understand the frescoes art historians use a the same theory that literary analysts do to study the interrelationship of the stories or narratives.  This kind of analysis is called a semiotic or structural analysis.  By looking at this wall as a whole, and interpreting the relationship of panel image to the others, it is possible to come up with a deeper understanding of the set of frescoes as a whole. 
For example, the top set of images represents scenes from the life of Joachim, Mary's father.  This top set of scenes acts as a kind of thematic framework in which to view the life of Jesus which is set in the central section, beneath these stories, acting almost like a foundation or the caryatids from the Acropolis are the seven virtues and vices.  See the diagram below.
Scenes from the Life of Joachim
1. Expulsion of Joachim from the Temple
2. Joachim among the Shepherds
3. Annunciation to St. Anne
4. Joachim's Sacrificial Offering
5. Joachim's Dream
6. Meeting at the Golden Gate Scenes from the Life of the Virgin
7. The Birth of the Virgin
8. Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple
9. The Rods Brought to the Temple
10. Prayer of the Suitors
11. Marriage of the Virgin
12. The Wedding Procession
13. God Sends Gabriel to the Virgin
14. Annunciation: The Angel Gabriel Sent by God
15. Annunciation: The Virgin Receiving the Message
16. Visitation
Scenes From the Life of Christ
17. Nativity: Birth of Jesus
18. Adoration of the Magi
19. Presentation at the Temple
20. Flight into Egypt
21. Massacre of the Innocents
22. Christ among the Doctors
23. Baptism of Christ
24. Marriage at Cana
25. Raising of Lazarus
26. Entry into Jerusalem
27. Expulsion of the Money-changers from the Temple
28. Judas Receiving Payment for his Betrayal
29. Last Supper
30. Washing of Feet
31. Kiss of Judas
32. Christ before Caiaphas
33. Flagellation
34. Road to Calvary
35. Crucifixion
36. Lamentation (The Mourning of Christ)
37. Resurrection (Noli me tangere)
38. Ascension
39. Pentecost

 
 
Virtues and Vices
Justice and Injustice Form: This is a monochromatic fresco.  It resembles a marble relief sculpture.  Giotto's genius is also seen in his perspective and visual depth.  Light and shadow of the gown she wears resembles the type of gown a Roman woman would wear.  Perhaps this is an allusion to Roman art and law.  The personification of Justice (as well as Injustice) is slightly larger than the rest of the vices and virtues. 
Giotto uses chiaroscuro (the play of light and shadow or shading) to create realism in this work.  The drapery is no longer rendered in the cartoonish or awkward manner of earlier paintings and the light source seems consistent across the entire picture plane.
Iconography:  The pointed domes surrounding her throne resemble the arches of a gothic cathedral.  Though wearing a crown that is a symbol of royalty, this religious backdrop would indicate that she is Godly.  Some people also believe that this is Mary.  The procession of people at the bottom of this image shows people living prosperous lives.  They are dancing, tending their animals and conversing amongst themselves.  The lesson being subtly portrayed would be that if one lives a moral life, he will enjoy happiness and prosperity.
Context:  Literacy of the Middle Ages was very low.  Only the clergy could read the scriptures.  Therefore, the paintings inside the temples during this period were for didactic purposes.  They were meant to tell a story.  In the Arena Chapel the stories are of Jesus’ parents, His life, and then running around the bottom of the church (at eye level) are the Virtues and Vices so that all could see them. Virtues consisted of: Justice (above) prudence, fortitude, temperance, faith, charity, and hope. 
by Annette Abbotte
Form:  Marble during this period was very expensive, so to cut down on costs, Giotto painted the virtues and vices in a way that made them look like marble.  It is also a monochromatic fresco.   Though he sits quite close to the fore of the picture plane, Giotto's use of light, shadow and perspective make this ruler appear to be receding beneath the arches of his throne. Iconography:  The crumbling castle that serves as a backdrop to this ruler’s throne would suggest that he is a tyrant.  He rules his kingdom with a sword.  There are trees growing up in front of him.  They symbolize the idiomatic expression of one not being able to “see the forest for the trees” – not that this is of any value because, with his head tilted away from the viewer, it appears as if he does not wish to see them at all. The procession of people running along the bottom of this painting indicates these people live in a place of unrest - perhaps a civilization in decline.  We see them pillaging, stealing and fighting amongst each other. 
Context:  The seven vices are personified on one side of the temple facing the virtues.  The vices are:  Injustice, desperation, envy, infidelity, wrath, inconstancy and foolishness.
Semiotic or structural analysis:  The seven vices and virtues are positioned around lowest part of the cathedral.  They are intentionally at eye level so that every man who enters the temple can look at and be reminded of the constant and equal struggle of these characteristics in everyone.  Justice and Injustice both occupy a central position on the dado.  The inside of the Arena Chapel is a didactic text.  The higher the eye rises when viewing these frescos, the loftier are the images or stories being portrayed.  We can look up to see Christ's parents and his life, but then when we look at the images on the bottom – the ones nearest to ourselves, we see our own souls.  The Virtues are on the right side of the chapel.  The right in such paintings always represents good (“right hand of God”) or Godliness.  The Vices are located along the left side. 
by Annette Abbotte
Take a virtual tour of the Arena chapel here:
http://www.mystudios.com/gallery/giotto/preamble.html

St. Lazare, Autun Cathedral, France
West Portal, sculpted by Gislebertus c1130CE
 
Form: Compare this image to Gislebertus' carving at Autun Cathedral. The composition is symmetrical and organized using hieratic scale.  The picture plane is also organized according to horizontal bands but in this image, unlike its Romanesque predecessor, there is overlapping and some sense of space created.  The structure of the composition is still standard according to depictions of a "Last Judgment." According to the Brittanica,
Typically, the figure of Christ appears in the centre of the composition, dominant in size and usually enclosed in a mandorla (an oval, nimbus-like form). At his right and left are the four Evangelists, sometimes represented or accompanied by their animal symbols. To the sides, smaller figures of angels and demons weigh sins of the resurrected dead, who are ranked along the lowest and smallest section of the tympanum, directly above the lintel.

Iconography: What makes St. Lazare an interesting example of Romanesque architecture and art is the fact that the west portal, which depicts  a "sermon in stone," was originally painted. It is exceedingly well organized and stylized. This means that the figures represented in the relief sculpture are non naturalistic, this is akin to what one would see in Byzantine art. The figures relative size is based not on reality, but  on their spiritual importance. 
Jesus, as the central figure is shown impossibly huge the figures around him are depicting judgment, heaven and hell, and good and evil. The organization of the composition is designed so that all of the other figures relate in some way to the central figure of Jesus.  Figures who are to the right of Christ are literally on his good side while the figures to his left are not.  Likewise there is a hierarchy according to placement in the three bands.  The correlation between left and right (good and evil) does not exist in the topmost band.  Anything placed in the uppermost register of the composition is "good" or heavenly.
According to the Brittanica,
 
Christianity, further developing the concept of the Last Judgment, teaches that it will occur at the Parousia (the Second Coming, or Second Advent, of Christ in glory), when all men will stand before a judging God. In early Christian art the scene is one of Christ the judge, the resurrection of the dead, the weighing of souls, the separation of the saved and the damned, and representations of paradise and hell. Romanesque artists produced a more terrible vision of the Last Judgment: Christ is shown as a stern judge, sometimes carrying a sword and surrounded by the four mystical beasts--eagle, lion, ox, and winged man--of the apocalypse; the contrast between paradise and hell is between the awesome and the ferocious. In the gentler, more humanistic art of the Gothic period, a beautiful Christ is shown as the Redeemer, his right side undraped to reveal the wound of the lance, and both wounded hands raised high in a gesture that emphasizes his sacrifice. He is surrounded by the instruments of his Passion--cross, nails, lance, and crown of thorns. The intercessors are restored, and the scene of the Judgment is treated with optimism. In the 16th century, Michelangelo produced a radically different version of the Last Judgment in his fresco in the Sistine Chapel in Rome (1533-41): a vengeful Christ, nude like a pagan god, gestures menacingly toward the damned.

 
The iconography of this "Last Judgment" does change a bit also by the inclusion of the patron of the image just to the left of center (Christ's right.)  The inclusion of a patron or donor to the chapel actually is very significant, it tells us that there is a new class of people on the scene and that they consider themselves important.  It also indicates some ideas concerning the sale of indulgences and usury that are later on considered suspicious during the 1500's.  See professor Farber's page for a more complete discussion.  Dr. Farber's Lecture on the Arena Chapel
 
Below the cross, on the left, is the dedicatory scene, in which Enrico Scrovegni kneels before the Virgin and two saints, offering a model of the Arena Chapel upheld by an Augustinian friar. The portrait of Scrovegni, who is shown in sharp profile, is a faithful representation of the youthful features of the same man shown in old age on his marble tomb in the same chapel. His clothing and hair style reflect the fashions of the day, and provide valuable information on contemporary costume. The figure of Scrovegni is on the same scale as the sacred figures he is addressing - it was evidently enough to show him kneeling before these figures to indicate his 'inferior' status.  The model of the chapel presented by Scrovegni differs in a few details from the real chapel, a fact which suggests that the Last Judgment may have been painted before the exterior of the chapel was completed. This is a strong possibility since the most pictorially advanced parts of the cycle, i.e. those most similar to Giotto's later works, appear on the wall opposite the Last Judgment, above and on each side of the chancel arch. The warm, rich coloures of the angels surrounding God, and of the figures of Gabriel and Mary are related to the fresco decorations in the Magdalen Chapel in the Lower Church at Assisi, which are the closest to the Paduan frescoes of all of Giotto's surviving cycles.
http://www.kfki.hu/~arthp/tours/giotto/lastjudg.html

Context: According to Professor Farber,
In 1300, the wealthy Paduan merchant Enrico Scrovegni bought a piece of land on the site of a former Roman arena. Included in the palace that he built on the site was a chapel dedicated to the Virgin of the Annunciation, Santa Maria Annunziata, and the Virgin of Charity, Santa Maria del Carità. Enrico is shown in the fresco of the Last Judgment presenting a model of the chapel to the Virgin: The family wealth had been amassed by Enrico's father, Reginaldo, whom Dante singled out as the arch usurer in his Inferno. Usury, the lending of money for profit, was considered a sin during the Middle Ages. It is likely that Enrico constructed the chapel as a means to expiate the father's sin. The dedication of the Chapel to the Virgin of Charity, referred to in a document of March of 1304 in which Pope Benedict XI granted indulgences to those who visited "Santa Maria del Carità de Arena," was an obvious choice to disassociate the family from taint of greed and miserliness.

 

Form:  This is a detail of the lower right hand corner (to Christ's left) of the Last Judgment.  In this section the coloring shifts radically with its flames and lava.  The figure of the devil is placed in the center of the sub region of hell. 
  Iconography: 
 
The damned, who are shown in the lower right hand corner, fall into a hell dominated by the figure of Satan. This hell teems with hopeless diminutive figures being subjected to a variety of comically indecent humiliations and torments by apish devils. It is a far cry from Dante's tragic vision of hell and recalls only a few verses of the Inferno about the area of hell known as the Malebolge. Almost all these figures can be attributed to Giotto's assistants, though here, too, the guiding hand of the master can be perceived in the rich play of imagination which characterizes the whole, and in the execution of certain parts, which suggest his direct intervention. This is true of the wonderfully immediate episode that takes place on the brink of hell, below the cross, where two devils conduct a struggling man back to the damned, tugging him by his clothes, which are being pulled over his head to reveal his disproportionate genitals.  (It seems these two sites copied from each other, I'm not sure which is the original source so here's links to both.)
http://gallery.euroweb.hu/html/g/giotto/padova/4lastjud/lastj_d4.html
http://www.kfki.hu/~arthp/tours/giotto/lastjudg.html

According to Dr. Farber, In hell . . . 
the theme of usury is also developed in the adjacent image of Christ expelling the merchants from the Temple and the detail of usurers hanging from the their money bags in the Hell scene included in the Last Judgment:
Giotto's walls and paintings are done in fresco,  According to the Brittanica,
 
Fresco is a method of painting water-based pigments on freshly applied plaster, usually on wall surfaces. The colours, which are made by grinding dry-powder pigments in pure water, dry and set with the plaster to become a permanent part of the wall. Fresco painting is ideal for making murals because it lends itself to a monumental style, is durable, and has a matte surface. Buon', or "true," fresco is the most durable technique and consists of the following process. Three successive coats of specially prepared plaster, sand, and sometimes marble dust are troweled onto a wall. Each of the first two rough coats is applied and then allowed to set (dry and harden). In the meantime, the artist, who has made a full-scale cartoon (preparatory drawing) of the image that he intends to paint, transfers the outlines of the design onto the wall from a tracing made of the cartoon. The final, smooth coat (intonaco) of plaster is then troweled onto as much of the wall as can be painted in one session. The boundaries of this area are confined carefully along contour lines, so that the edges, or joints, of each successive section of fresh plastering are imperceptible. The tracing is then held against the fresh intonaco and lined up carefully with the adjacent sections of painted wall, and its pertinent contours and interior lines are traced onto the fresh plaster; this faint but accurate drawing serves as a guide for painting the image in colour.
A correctly prepared intonaco will hold its moisture for many hours. When the painter dilutes his colours with water and applies them with brushstrokes to the plaster, the colours are imbibed into the surface, and as the wall dries and sets, the pigment particles become bound or cemented along with the lime and sand particles. This gives the colours great permanence and resistance to aging, since they are an integral part of the wall surface, rather than a superimposed layer of paint on it. The medium of fresco makes great demands on a painter's technical skill, since he must work fast (while the plaster is wet) but cannot correct mistakes by overpainting; this must be done on a fresh coat of plaster or by using the secco method.
Secco ("dry") fresco is a somewhat superficial process that dispenses with the complex preparation of the wall with wet plaster. Instead, dry, finished walls are soaked with limewater and painted while wet. The colours do not penetrate into the plaster but form a surface film, like any other paint. Secco has always held an inferior position to true fresco, but it is useful for retouching the latter.
The origins of fresco painting are unknown, but it was used as early as the Minoan civilization (at Knossos on Crete) and by the ancient Romans (at Pompeii). The Italian Renaissance was the great period of fresco painting, as seen in the works of Cimabue, Giotto, Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Correggio, and many other painters from the late 13th to the mid-16th century. Michelangelo's paintings in the Sistine Chapel and Raphael's Stanza murals in the Vatican are the most famous of all frescoes. By the mid-16th century, however, the use of fresco had largely been supplanted by oil painting. The technique was briefly revived by Diego Rivera and other Mexican Muralists in the first half of the 20th century.

Christ Entering Jerusalem
Duccio di Buoninsegna, (Maestà)
detail Christ Entering Jerusalem
(Maestà, reverse of the top panel called "verso")
1308-11Tempera on wood
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena
Form: Giotto is known for his ability to create a rational sense of space, even though he hasn't really formulated or learned the laws of perspective as they are known by 1400. He does use vertical perspective to create space initially.  He places the figures that are closest to the viewer the lowest in the picture plane and those further back higher up but, he places the figures more on a horizontal and logical plane. 
He also uses overlapping and a size scale difference between foreground and background.  Some of the figures in the crowd overlap and hide the figure's behind them.  The figures in the background are significantly smaller but the scale of the building is a bit illogical.
Compare this image to Duccio's rendition of the same image.
Giotto also uses chiaroscuro (the play of light and shadow or shading) to create realism in this work.  According to the Brittanica, chiaroscuro (from Italian chiaro, "light"; scuro, "dark"), which is technique employed in the visual arts to represent light and shadow as they define three-dimensional objects. The drapery is no longer rendered in the cartoonish or awkward manner of earlier paintings and the light source seems consistent across the entire picture plane.
Context:  In order to understand the iconography of this scene one needs to go to the Bible passage on which it is modeled first:
Matthew Chapter 21
1
When they drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples,
2
saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tethered, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them here to me.
3
And if anyone should say anything to you, reply, 'The master has need of them.' Then he will send them at once."
4
This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:
5
"Say to daughter Zion, 'Behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'"
6
The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them.
7
They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, and he sat upon them.
8
The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road.
9
The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: "Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest."
10
And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken and asked, "Who is this?"
11     And the crowds replied, "This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee."
Iconography:  Most of the iconography is fairly standard in this image.  Jesus is depicted in he usual manner, he has a beard and is depicted, as his apostles with a beautiful nimbus of gold around his head.  His halo is literally the light of divine knowledge which radiates from him.  The royal red and blue colors he wears and the gold leaf are all meant to emphasize his status, however, he is also humble.  He rides a common beast of burden to show his connection to all men.  However, Giotto has a sense of humor about the whole thing.  If you look at the figure in the far right hand corner of Giotto's image, you may notice that one of the figures seems to be having some trouble removing his cloak.


Giotto, The Lamentation, c1305 Arena Chapel, Padua, Italy ¹la.ment vb [ME lementen, fr. MF & L; MF lamenter,
fr. L lamentari, fr. lamentum, n., lament] vi (15c): to mourn aloud: 
wail ~ vt 1: to express sorrow, mourning, or regret for often 
demonstratively: mourn 2: to regret strongly syn see deplore 
²lament n (1591) 1: a crying out in grief: wailing 2: dirge, elegy 
3: complaint 
Form: Giotto is known for his ability to create a rational sense of space, even though he hasn't really formulated or learned the laws of perspective as they are known by 1400.  In this image, he does not really rely on vertical perspective to create space initially but rather he overlaps the figures. Giotto uses chiaroscuro (the play of light and shadow or shading) to create realism in this work.  According to the Brittanica, chiaroscuro (from Italian chiaro, "light"; scuro, "dark"), which is technique employed in the visual arts to represent light and shadow as they define three-dimensional objects. The drapery is no longer rendered in the cartoonish or awkward manner of earlier paintings and the light source seems consistent across the entire picture plane.
The gesture and the creation of space are combined by Giotto in the figure of St. John (?) whose arms he shows as being thrown wide and in the attitudes and poses of the angels and the figures with their backs to the viewer.  The torsos of both the angels who fly above and the figures in the foreground are foreshortened.  Foreshortening, is when something like an arm, or a finger or even the trunk of the bodies of the angels project forward into the viewer's face.  As things move towards the front (the fore ground) of the picture plane, they actually look shorter, hence, foreshortened.
The figures with their backs to the viewer also create space by placing the viewer in the position in which they are literally looking over the shoulder of someone else to get a better view.
Iconography:  Giotto especially uses the language of humanism to get the viewer to identify with the participants in this scene.  Gesture and the use of the back turned figures in the foreground are both iconographic as well as formal.  In this case, Giotto is attempting to demonstrate or provide for the viewer every emotion one might feel as they looked on the body of Christ just after it was deposed (taken down from the cross) and before it was entombed.  The audience is invited to imagine how they might have felt at this event and are asked to match themselves up with one of the characters in the image.

  chiar.oscu.ro n, pl -ros [It, fr. chiaro clear, light + oscuro obscure, dark] (1686) 1: pictorial representation in terms of light and shade without regard to color 2 a: the arrangement or treatment of light and dark parts in a pictorial work of art b: the interplay or contrast of dissimilar qualities (as of mood or character) 3: a 16th century woodcut technique involving the use of several blocks to print different tones of the same color; also: a print made by this technique 4: the interplay of light and shadow on or as if on a surface 5: the quality of being veiled or partly in shadow
 

chiaroscuro
The picture plane is further unified and made consistent by the use of light and shadow referred to as chiaroscuro. According to the Brittanica, 
 
Chiaroscuro (from Italian chiaro, "light"; scuro, "dark"),
technique employed in the visual arts to represent light and shadow as they define three-dimensional objects. Some evidence exists that ancient Greek and Roman artists used chiaroscuro effects, but in European painting the technique was first brought to its full potential by Leonardo da Vinci in the late 15th century in such paintings as his "Adoration of the Magi" (1481; Uffizi, Florence). Thereafter, chiaroscuro became a primary technique for many painters, and by the late 17th century the term was routinely used to describe any painting, drawing, or print that depends for its effect on an extensive gradation of light and darkness.
 "chiaroscuro."  and  Britannica 2001 Standard Edition CD-ROM.   Copyright © 1994-2001 Britannica.com Inc.   November 19, 2002. 
 
Dado:  lower part of the interior wall that is decorated differently than the top.
Didactic:  a painting or piece of literature that contains a moral lesson. di.dac.tic adj [Gk didaktikos, fr. didaskein to teach] (1658) 1 a: designed or intended to teach b: intended to convey instruction and information as well as pleasure and entertainment 2: making moral observations -- di.dac.ti.cal adj -- di.dac.ti.cal.ly adv -- di.dac.ti.cism n
 
fres.co n, pl frescoes
[It, fr. fresco fresh, of Gmc origin; akin to OHG frisc fresh] (1598)
1: the art of painting on freshly spread moist lime plaster with water-based pigments
2: a painting executed in fresco -- fresco vt
fresco comes from the Italian word for fresh.  The paint is applied quickly in fresh patches of plaster that haven't had a chance to dry yet.  This allows the paint to sink into the plaster and stain it sometimes up to a quarter of an inch below the surface of the wall.
buon fresco, which literally means "good fresh," the water color and lime (the mineral not the fruit) are painted directly on damp plaster that has just been applied.
fresco secco (Italian for "dry fresh") is a little less permanent and the paint sometimes can flake off the walls.  Paint and especially details and expensive colors are applied to sections of the mural that have already dried.  The medium in this case is either tempera (egg and water) or some kind of glue usually made from animal skin or some sort of dairy product.
hu.man.ism n (1832) 1 a: devotion to the humanities: literary culture b: the revival of classical letters, individualistic and critical spirit, and emphasis on secular concerns characteristic of the Renaissance 2: humanitarianism 3: a doctrine, attitude, or way of life centered on human interests or values; esp: a philosophy that usu. rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individual's dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason -- hu.man.ist n or adj -- hu.man.is.tic adj -- hu.man.is.ti.cal.ly adv
monochromatic "mono" means one or single.  "Chroma" refers to color.  So this means painted in one color or a single color.
Trompe l'oeil - (French: "deceive the eye"), in painting, the representation of an object with such verisimilitude as to deceive the viewer concerning the material reality of the object. This idea appealed to the ancient Greeks who were newly emancipated from the conventional stylizations of earlier art. Zeuxis, for example, reportedly painted such realistic grapes that birds tried to eat them. The technique was also popular with Roman muralists. Although trompe l'oeil never achieved the status of a major artistic aim, from the early Renaissance on, European painters occasionally fostered illusionism by painting false frames out of which the contents of a still life or portrait appeared to spill, or by creating window-like images suggesting actual openings in the wall or ceiling. (Brittanica)
 
 
























 

BOSCH, Hieronymus. 
Death and the Miser c. 1490 
Oil on wood, 93 x 31 cm 
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Context:  Even though the Reformation doesn't officially start until Luther publishes his writings around 1516-20 there are strains of the ideas and Luther and his writings are probably the result of years of moving in that direction in the North.  Many of Luther's ideas can be seen to evolve in the Northern art of the mid 1400's.  It makes sense that the critical and often sarcastic imagery we saw in Metsys' The Moneylender and his Wife, 1514 and the ideas expressed in Petrus Christus. Saint Eloy (Eligius) in his Shop.  1449 evolve into a critical point of view about the main religious institution controlling their lives.
 
Hiëronymus Bosch, 
b. c. 1450,, 's Hertogenbosch, Brabant [now in The Netherlands]
d. Aug. 9, 1516, 's Hertogenbosch 
also spelled JHERONIMUS BOS, pseudonym of JEROME VAN AEKEN, also spelled AQUEN, OR AKEN, also called JEROEN ANTHONISZOON, brilliant and original northern European painter of the late Middle Ages whose work reveals an unusual iconography of a complex and individual style. Although at first recognized as a highly imaginative "creator of devils" and a powerful inventor of seeming nonsense full of satirical meaning, Bosch demonstrated insight into the depths of the mind and an ability to depict symbols of life and creation. Bosch was a pessimistic and stern moralist who had neither illusions about the rationality of human nature nor confidence in the kindness of a world that had been corrupted by man's presence in it. His paintings are sermons, addressed often to initiates and consequently difficult to translate. Unable to unlock the mystery of the artist's works, critics at first believed that he must have been affiliated with secret sects. Although the themes of his work were religious, his choice of symbols to represent the temptation and eventual ensnarement of man in earthly evils caused many critics to view Bosch as a practitioner of the occult arts. More recent scholarship views Bosch as a talented artist who possessed deep insight into human character and as one of the first artists to represent abstract concepts in his work. A number of exhaustive interpretations of Bosch's work have been put forth in recent years, but there remain many obscure details.
 "Bosch, Hiëronymus."   Britannica 2001 Standard Edition CD-ROM.   Copyright © 1994-2001 Britannica.com Inc.   December 3, 2002. 
Notice that Bosch's iconography is a problem for art historians and each one attempts to interpret it according to what they know.  Below you will find several points of view as to what the iconography may or may not mean.  Read these different accounts and decide for yourself.

BOSCH, Hieronymus. 
Death and the Miser c. 1490 
Oil on wood, 93 x 31 cm 
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Form and Iconography: The use of oil paint to create an incredible level of realism is quite evident in this image.  Here, the artist shows off again by showing how well he is able to paint the textures and surfaces but he is also demonstrating his ability to create space. In some ways, this scene is a genre scene.  It takes place in what looks to be a domestic setting and the central character is one that the viewer would be expected to identify with.
Bosch often worked with almost incomprehensible or bizarre iconography.  It seems, like the submerged symbolism of Robert Campin's  Merode Altarpiece c. 1425 he is inventing or using a now lost lexicon of iconography.
The interior of this composition is formed to look almost as if the scene is taking place within the nave of a vaulted cathedral.  This is probably done almost as a sarcastic reference to the Gothic style Church.  To the left of the doorway in which a skeleton is entering is a Romanesque or Gothic capital and column.
This image seems to be a sarcastic play on the iconography associated with annunciation scenes such as those by Robert Campin's  Merode Altarpiece c. 1425.  Almost as in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, in this scene, a miser is being visited on his death bed by a variety of fantastic creatures.  Death stands ready in the door to fling his last arrow and take the man to his fate while his soul is wrestled over.  God is represented by the apparition of the crucifixion in the window.  The light that shines through the window is represented similarly to the soul of Jesus being delivered to Mary in the Merode Altarpiece c. 1425.   Above the bed, on a canopy, a demon shines a fake sparking lamp to misguide him.
At the misers back is an angel.  Again the angel is similar to representations of Gabriel in annunciation scenes but the miser pays no attention and seems torn, even on his deathbed, between the glory of god and the vain gloria of his avarice represented by the evil frog like demon tempting him with the money bag.
Overall the composition is a vertical one and this plays into the iconography.  God is represented at the top of the image and as we descend through the image we can also see that the iconography descends into the common world of man.
Beneath the deathbed is a rather red nosed and almost drunken looking man who has a key and a rosary hanging from his robes.  According to the the National Gallery's website, "At the foot of the bed a younger man, possibly the miser at an earlier age, hypocritically throws coins into a chest with one hand as he fingers a rosary with the other." 
I think they may have it wrong though, to me it looks like he is placing money into an alm's bowl held by a demon while another demon passes up what looks to be a letter or a papal indulgence.  Could this be St. Peter and the chest represent the holdings of the Catholic Church?  Perhaps then, the letter is an indulgence that is an attempt to pay his way into heaven.
Beneath the chest and at the very bottom of the picture plane lies a suit of discarded armor.  Perhaps a representation of the miser's discarded faith.  Notice that the sword is rusted.  He is no longer the good Christian soldier depicted in Durer's print.
Here's another point of view but I'm not sure if it's correct:
 
Bosch's depiction of a dying miser lying in his high narrow bedchamber features a number of details pointing out the consequences of a life devoted to avarice. The figure of death stands in the doorway indicating that the miser's end is rapidly approaching. And while the miser's guardian angel vainly tries to draw his attention to the crucifix in the window at the upper left, the demonic influence is overpowering. Many commentators have noted that Bosch's work here seems to be of a type which may have been influenced by the Fifteen Century devotional work Ars Moriendi (Craft of Dying) which describes how a dying man is exposed to a series of temptations by demons surrounding his deathbed. At each temptation an angel comforts him and strengthens him and in the end the angel is successful, the soul is carried to heaven and the devil's howl in despair. Here, however, the outcome is much less certain.
The fact that the miser's path was established long before his death is apparent with the inclusion of an image of his younger self placing a coin into a bag held by a demon. Underneath the chest other demons await. in the forefront a winged demon handles the red robes which indicate the miser's earthly rank. While at bedside another creature offers a bag of gold which provides a final distraction to the dying man. The message appears to be that despite God's willingness to provide salvation most people will persist in their sins until the point of death.
http://www.artdamage.com/bosch/miser.htm
Here's the National Gallery of Art, Washington point of view:
 
Of all fifteenth-century artists, Hieronymus Bosch is the most mysterious. His puzzling, sometimes bizarre imagery has prompted a number of false assertions that he was, for example, the member of a heretical sect, a sexual libertine, or a forerunner of the surrealists. What can be said is that he was a moralist, profoundly pessimistic about man's inevitable descent into sin and damnation. In this slender panel, probably a wing from a larger altarpiece, a dying man seems torn between salvation and his own avarice. At the foot of the bed a younger man, possibly the miser at an earlier age, hypocritically throws coins into a chest with one hand as he fingers a rosary with the other. In his last hour, with death literally at the door, the miser still hesitates; will he reach for the demon's bag of gold or will he follow the angel's gesture and direct his final thoughts to the crucifix in the window?
Avarice was one of the seven deadly sins and among the final temptations described in the Ars moriendi (Art of Dying), a religious treatise probably written about 1400 and later popularized in printed books. Bosch's painting is similar to illustrations in these books, but his introduction of ambiguity and suspense is unique.
This panel is thinly painted. In several areas it is possible to see in the underdrawing where Bosch changed his mind about the composition. His thin paint and unblended brushstrokes differ markedly from the enamellike polish of other works in this gallery.
also see
http://www.thebeckoning.com/art/bosch/bosch-miser.html

Paradise

BOSCH, Hieronymus,  Haywain 1500-02
Oil on panel, Monasterio de San Lorenzo, El Escorial

Hell
Oil on panel, 147 x 66 cm

 
 
 

Paradise
Context: The subject of sin and its punishments was central to all of Bosch's art. A famous triptych, The Haywain, contains a progression of sin, from Eden to hell, across its panels. In the central panel sin is represented through the metaphor of a large wagonload of hay for which a greedy world grasps. All the while, the wagon is being pulled by demons towards the right panel - which shows one of Bosch's earliest depictions of hell. Form:  Interestingly enough, Bosch again is collaging together elements from images by Giotto in his Last Judgement and Masaccio's Expulsion as well as various elements and compositional devices one might find in the Tympanum of Gothic and Rmanesque Churches such as those found at Autun.
In the sky we see an image of God almost as if he is in a Last Judgement scene.  The composition is very similar to Giotto's Last Judgment.  The arrangement and scale of the angels or possibly even some demons is in a semi- circular form as in Giotto's.
Beneath, in the garden, we the arrangement of the figures in this continuous narrative scene is based on various standard compositions for each story.  For example, the creation of Eve uses the same poses as Michelangelo does about ten years later in his Sistine Chapel panel.
Iconography:  The arraangement of this panel is hierarchical.  The scene at the top, may represent creation but the weird bug like demons grouped at the bottom coupled with the angels who are higher up in the picture plane, may indicate that this is the fall of the angels which is echoed by Adam's expulsion at the very bottom.   An interesting, Catholic icon is represented by God the father as he pulls Eve from Adam's rib.  God is wearing the papal crown.

 

BOSCH, Hieronymus,  Haywain 1500-02
Oil on panel, Monasterio de San Lorenzo, El Escorial
Form: The composition of the center scene is fairly symmetrical.  The hay wagon that sits in the center of the image creates the bottom of pyramidal shape that is completed by the figure who sit atop the wagon and God in heaven who looks over the scene. Iconography:  The overall scene is one that represents our unavoidable journey to damnation.  It is a bit pessimistic.
Atop the Hay wagon, angels pray for us and demons also vie for our attention.  A vessel, possibly representing the holy vessel is atop a pike, while opposite this is an owl, representing knowledge and death, sits atop another branch surrounded by blackbirds (death?).
Below the wagon are scenes of chaos, murder, lust and avarice.  Basically all the seven deadly sins are represented in one guise or another and even the clergy are not immune to gluttony in the lower right hand corner.

 

BOSCH, Hieronymus.
Garden of Earthly Delights (closed triptych) c. 1500
"Creation of the World"?
Oil on panel,  (86 5/8 X 76 1/4) 220 x 195 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid
   The outer panels of Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights betray little of the wonders which lie within. Here we see the earth as Bosch envisioned it to be on the third day of creation. Light has been separated from the darkness, the waters have been divided above and below the firmament and trees are beginning to grow across the face of the earth. Overlooking this pale and watery earth composed primarily of subtle grays and green-grays is the Creator who is pictured as sitting passively on his throne holding a book which represents the creative Word. And lest we miss the allusion to the effortlessness of the Creator's act, Bosch has added an inscription from Ps. 33.9, "For he spake and it was done; he commanded and it stood forth." http://www.artdamage.com/bosch/gardenex.htm
BOSCH, Hieronymus.
Garden of Earthly Delights
(central panel of the triptych) c. 1500
Oil on panel, 220 x 195 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid
The "Garden of Earthly Delights," representative of Bosch at his mature best, shows the earthly paradise with the creation of woman, the first temptation, and the fall. The painting's beautiful and unsettling images of sensuality and of the dreams that afflict the people who live in a pleasure-seeking world express Bosch's iconographic originality with tremendous force. The chief characteristic of this work is perhaps its dreamlike quality; multitudes of nude human figures, giant birds, and horses cavort and frolic in a delightfully implausible, otherworldly landscape, and all the elements come together to produce a perfect, harmonious whole.  "Bosch, Hiëronymus."   Britannica 2001 Standard Edition CD-ROM.   Copyright © 1994-2001 Britannica.com Inc.   December 3, 2002. 
 Various attempts have been made to relate these fantasies to the realities of his own day. For instance, some of the sexually related visions have been related to the  creed of the Adamites, a hereticel sect of the day advocating, at least in theory, sexual freedom like that in Eden. But the most promising line has been to recognize many of them as illustrations of proverbs: for instance, the pair of lovers in the glass bubble would recall the proverb 'Pleasure is as fragile as glass'. This approach  also provides a link between these fantasies and Bosch's other work, such as the Cure of Folly or Haywain, and between Bosch's later work and Bruegel's in the  middle of the sixteenth century: though without Bosch's satanic profusion, Bruegel also made illustrations of proverbs in this way.  http://www.kfki.hu/~arthp/html/b/bosch/painting/triptyc1/delightc.html
At the time of his death, Bosch was internationally celebrated as an eccentric painter of religious visions who dealt in particular with the torments of hell. During his lifetime Bosch's works were in the inventories of noble families of the Netherlands, Austria, and Spain, and they were imitated in a number of paintings and prints throughout the 16th century, especially in the works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. 
Bosch's most famous and unconventional picture is The Garden of Earthly Delights which, like most of his other ambitious works, is a large, 3-part altarpiece, called a triptych. This painting was probably made for the private enjoyment of a noble family. It is named for the luscious garden in the central panel, which is filled with cavorting nudes and giant birds and fruit. The triptych depicts the history of the world and the progression of sin. Beginning on the outside shutters with the creation of the world, the story progresses from Adam and Eve and original sin on the left panel to the torments of hell, a dark, icy, yet fiery nightmarish vision, on the right. The Garden of Delights in the center illustrates a world deeply engaged in sinful pleasures. 
http://www.kfki.hu/~arthp/html/b/bosch/painting/triptyc1/delightr.html

 

Left Detail Heaven/Paradise 
with Adam and Eve
    The subdued gray earth of The Garden of Earthly Delight's exterior panels gives way to an explosion of vibrant color within. With the felt panel we move to the final three days of creation when life burst forth on the earth with all of its abundance. Swarms of living creatures inhabit the fertile garden with many gathering near a tall, slender Fountain of Life which occupies a small island in the lake at the center of the panel. To the right of the fountain a group of animals are climbing a bank which transforms itself into a face.      In the foreground, near the Tree of Knowledge we see God presenting Eve to an astounded Adam who seems amazed at this creature who has been brought forth from his rib. It is notable that here God is much more youthful that we have seen in previous representations in that Bosch sets aside his earlier convention and presents the Deity in the Person of Christ. This follows a frequent convention in Fifteenth Century Dutch literature where the marriage of Adam and Eve is performed by a Youthful Deity.
     As is usually the case with Bosch, however, no paradise exists entirely free from at least a foreshadowing of evil and this foreshadowing appears as a pit in the extreme foreground, out of which a variety of creatures are emerging.
http://www.artdamage.com/bosch/gardenl.htm

Right Detail
    The dreamlike paradise of the center panel gives way to the nightmare of Hell in which the excitement of passion is transformed into a frenzy of suffering. Here the lushest paradise Bosch will ever produce leads to the most violent of his always violent hells. As is generally the case in Bosch's vision of Hell a burning city serves as a backdrop to the various activities carried out by Hell's citizens, but here the buildings don't merely burn, rather they explode with firey plumes blasting into the darkness as what appears to be a wave of refugees flee across a bridge toward an illuminated gate house.      As is always the case in Bosch's Hells the general theme is a chaos in which normal relationships are turned upside down and everyday objects are turned into objects of torture. And, given Bosch's use of musical instruments as symbolic of lust it is not surprising that in the Hell musical instruments as objects of torment are prominently featured. From the left we see a nude figure which has been attached by devils to the neck of a lute, while another has been entangled in the strings of a harp and a third has been stuffed down the neck of a great horn.
http://www.artdamage.com/bosch/gardenr.htm
The picture shows a detail of The Hell. Several huge musical instruments figure prominently in Bosch's conception of hell. They are shaped similarly to the ones used at that time, but their positioning is unrealistic (for example, a harp grows out of a lute). Their relationship to each other bears strongly fanciful elements, and they have been adapted in form. What is more, the use of these instruments is wholly fantastic. There is a human figure stretched across the strings of a harp; another writhes around the neck of a flute, intertwined with a snake; a third peers out of a drum equipped with bird-like feet, the next one plays triangle while reaching out from a hurdy-gurdy, and even the smoking trumpet displays an outstretched human arm. It is difficult to conceive that the group of damned souls would sing a hymn from the musical score fixed to the reverse of the reclining figure in front of them - although this has been proposed by some scholars. The ensemble, lead by an infernal monster, could more likely be a parody.  http://www.kfki.hu/~arthp/html/b/bosch/painting/triptyc1/delights.html
According to Dr. Bruce Lamott, a music historian, the depiction of the individual crucified on the harp, the image of the trumpet shoved up the rear end of one of the figures, and the ears sliced by the knives could be a reference to the ideas that were being debated by the Council of Trent.  Many individuals felt that music was too sensuous and the work of the devil and that the new traditions of playing music in Church was a mistake. There are also some very Giottoesque elements in this painting.  In the lower right hand of hell is an image of a pig dressed in a nun's habit which obviously is a jab at the greedy nature of the Catholic Church.  It is very similar to Giotto's inclusion of the Bishop who is taking money for indulgences and pardoning people in hell.