Jheronimus Bosch Art Center

La muerte en el Infierno: a propósito del Hombre-árbol del Jardin de las Delicias del Bosco

Aragonés Estella 2007
Aragonés Estella, Esperanza
Genre: Non fiction, art history
Uitgave datum: 2007
Bron: De Arte, 6 (2007), pp. 131-138

Aragonés Estella 2007


“La muerte en el Infierno: a propósito del Hombre-árbol del Jardín de las Delicias del Bosco” (Esperanza Aragonés Estella) 2007

[in: De Arte, 6 (2007), pp. 131-138]


The author argues that the Tree-Man in the right interior panel of Bosch’s Garden of Delights triptych represents Eternal Death or la muerte del alma que trae el pecado (the death of the soul caused by sin). Her arguments are these:

  • The white colour of the monster reminds the viewer of a corpse.
  • The ‘body’ of the creature reminds the viewer of a male torso with ribs in a state of decomposition. The Dutch word for death (dood) can be male or female. Bosch chose in favour of the male variant.
  • There are other elements that refer to death in the immediate neighbourhood, such as the giant skull of a horse and the letter M on the giant knife, which refers to ‘Mors’.
  • In the Bible and elsewhere death is often associated with the devil and with hell.


These arguments do not sound very convincing. In my opinion, the ‘body’ of the Tree-Man does not look like a male torso at all. And since 2016, thanks to the archival research done by Lucas van Dijck, we know that the ‘M’ on the knife is the logo of a ’s-Hertogenbosch producer of knives. If you want to reach a correct understanding of the Tree-Man, should you not also explain why there is tavern scene inside the ‘body’, why there is a signboard showing a bagpipe, and why a tabletop is balancing on the Tree-Man’s head, with sinners and devils walking around a giant bagpipe? The author does not even mention these details. Neither is there a reference to the ‘Vision of Tondal’, a text that probably inspired Bosch when he painted his Tree-Man.


[explicit 7th February 2021]

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