garden of earthly delights triptych of haywain
The forward kinetic motion of the participants moves the viewer from present-day sin into unadulterated torture in the realms of Hell. The procession on the left side of this panel bends back into the middle ground, but the right side figures continue in a straight line with the wagon, a more evident progress into damnation. 
The central panel features a large wagon of hay surrounded by a multitude of fools engaged in a variety of sins, quite apart from the sins of lust which dominates the Garden of Earthly Delights. In the center panel Bosch shows Christ in the sky, not paralleled in the Garden. An angel on top of the wagon looks to the sky, praying, but none of the other figures see Christ looking down on the world. The rightward bow of the figures around the wagon provides the force for the viewer’s eye to move with them on their journey and the cart is drawn by infernal beings which drag everyone to Hell, depicted on the right panel.
The painting is full of the Christian imagery and vivid, nightmarish details for which Bosch is famous. The first panel shows God casting angels out of heaven, where they turn into insects.
It was not until 1914 that the three panels of the triptych came back together in the Prado, where the triptych is currently displayed. A copy hangs in El Escorial.
As was normal for the time, the exterior of the Haywain Triptych was also painted, but in full colour rather than the usual grisaille (grey monochrome). Known as The Path of Life panel, it features a version of Bosch’s painting The Wayfarer (1500, Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam), Around him is a series of miniature paintings including one of a hanged man as well as the robbery of another pedlar. Scholars interpret the wayfarer as representing a man who follows his road despite a host of different temptations.
Among the most famous examples of Christian art of the early 16th century, packed with symbolism and allegorical meanings, The Haywain Triptych focuses on the subject of sin and its consequences. The work was one of a series of six paintings bought by Philip II of Spain in 1570. Later it was divided into three paintings: the central panel was sold to Isabella II of Spain (1830-1904) in 1848, and brought to Aranjuez; the right-hand panel was returned to the El Escorial, in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial; and the left-hand panel was transferred to the Prado Museum in Madrid. Only in 1914 were all three elements of the triptych finally recollected in the Prado. (There is a copy in the Escorial).
Although Bosch’s career flourished during the High Renaissance, he lived in an area where the beliefs of the medieval Church still held moral authority.  He would have been familiar with some of the new forms of expression, especially those in Southern Europe, although it is difficult to attribute with certainty which artists, writers and conventions had a bearing on his work.  José de Sigüenza is credited with the first extensive critique of The Garden of Earthly Delights, in his 1605 History of the Order of St. Jerome.  He argued against dismissing the painting as either heretical or merely absurd, commenting that the panels “are a satirical comment on the shame and sinfulness of mankind”.  The art historian Carl Justi observed that the left and center panels are drenched in tropical and oceanic atmosphere, and concluded that Bosch was inspired by “the news of recently discovered Atlantis and by drawings of its tropical scenery, just as Columbus himself, when approaching terra firma, thought that the place he had found at the mouth of the Orinoco was the site of the Earthly Paradise”.  The period in which the triptych was created was a time of adventure and discovery, when tales and trophies from the New World sparked the imagination of poets, painters and writers.  Although the triptych contains many unearthly and fantastic creatures, Bosch still appealed in his images and cultural references to an elite humanist and aristocratic audience. Bosch reproduces a scene from Martin Schongauer’s engraving Flight into Egypt. 
The right panel (220 × 97.5 cm, 87 × 38.4 in) illustrates Hell, the setting of a number of Bosch paintings. Bosch depicts a world in which humans have succumbed to temptations that lead to evil and reap eternal damnation. The tone of this final panel strikes a harsh contrast to those preceding it. The scene is set at night, and the natural beauty that adorned the earlier panels is noticeably absent. Compared to the warmth of the center panel, the right wing possesses a chilling quality—rendered through cold colourisation and frozen waterways—and presents a tableau that has shifted from the paradise of the center image to a spectacle of cruel torture and retribution.  In a single, densely detailed scene, the viewer is made witness to cities on fire in the background; war, torture chambers, infernal taverns, and demons in the midground; and mutated animals feeding on human flesh in the foreground.  The nakedness of the human figures has lost all its eroticism, and many now attempt to cover their genitalia and breasts with their hands, ashamed by their nakedness.
In his “Haywain Triptych” of 1515, Hieronymus Bosch instead painted in ordinary sinners — murderers, whores, quacks and errant clergymen — being escorted toward Hell by a weird parade of rodent-faced demons and fish-shaped devils. It is among the most popular works of early Renaissance art still around today.
“The Haywain” is the centerpiece of “From Bosch to Bruegel: Uncovering Everyday Life” at the Boijmans, an exhibition of 16th-century Dutch and Flemish art running until Jan. 17 that focuses on the crude and often comedic aspects of daily life in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance.