Field Research: Triptychs Trip

I recently had a tutorial with my Field module tutor Theo concerning my disseration proposal. We were discussing Classical Art which depicts low-brow behaviour. I was shown Hieronymus Bosch‘s three pannelled piece The Garden of Earthly Delights. I’d never paid much attention to the piece before, even though it is included in a couple of classical art books that I own. In the meeting  I was shown the bizzare depictions of immoral behaviour in the middle pannel of the painting and then I was shown the even more bizzarre outcomes of immoral behaviour, depicted in the ‘hell’ pannel. Some of the images in the paintings I struggle to imagine that they were created with the sole intention of being a warning of aftrelife punnishment for immoral behaviour, simply because they are SO bizzarre and SO surreal that I believe they must have always seemed humourous, at least to some. They certainly do now. The image of the tree legged man with boats for feet, a broken egg sheel for a torso and the dead-pan face of the painter himself  is surely more amusing then it is frightening. 



On arriving home and looking at the paintings in more detail, i became more and more fascinated by the content. The repeated use of the pond, the boats, and the eggshells started to form symbolic patterns as they were used in the three pannells in different ways. Then i became more interested in the concept of the pannels themselves. The first pannel represents the garden of eden. The second is the garden of Earthly delights, and the third shows a very creative hell. These three pannels are naturally going to be read from left to right, which is why the piece works as a warning against behaviour that results in eternal damnation. If they were read in any other order then it would only be a selection of options, but as it is; the third pannel is the punctuation of the piece. 

The idea of the tripdych (three pannel) and the diptych is originally believed to have been one of convenience. The folding of the paintings meant that they were safer to travel with. The Garden of Earrthly Delights’ when folded shut is decorated with a painting of what is believd to be early earth, colourless because it has yet to recieve the yellows of the sun and the blues of the moon (which, at the time were belived to have been created after the earth).

This concept of a flatpack Kinder-supprise is something which appeals to me in that it has historical context, (early christian art, Middle ages) as well as format which you are expected to understand has the outside being the shell or the whole, which is opened to reveal a three panelled narrative.

On researching Triptychs, I learnt that quite a famous one resides at Cardiff’s own Llandaff Cathedral. Not expecting the rain to stop this year, I dragged myself through Saturday’s hail and showers to Llandaff Cathedral, to study the building (built in the 1100s) as well as the art inside.


The Triptych is to your left, as soon as you enter. It is imprisoned in about 3 meters square of space and not ver well lit. You have to view it from different angles to see the whole pannels as the small beams of sunlight entering the high windows reflect harshly from the paint.


The Seed of David by Dante G Rossetti apparently depicts three vesrions of David, the fist is him going to battle goliath with his sling, the second as an ancestor of Christ, and the third as a mature King kneeling humbly. The use of the three pannels here isnt necessarily to be read in any particular order. Here it is more a focus on the middle pannel by use of it’s side pannels having david faceing the middle. The middle pannell is the most important and it has the most symbolism.




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