What does is it mean to see a painting—and is seeing it the same thing as understanding it?
Hieronymus Bosch's monumental Garden of Earthly Delights is instantly recognizable to most lovers of Renaissance art, and as Professor Catherine B. Scallen explains, it has been admired, looked on with shock, and puzzled over for 500 years. In its own time it was copied and even made into tapestries. It has been owned by a deeply devout Catholic king of Spain—and in the 1900s was cited by various scholars as representing the lost golden age of humanity, symbolizing the coded language of the alchemist, or even proving its creator's belief in sexual license. In the turbulent 1960s its images were common in dormitory rooms, delighting students eager to accept its joyful, frolicking nudes in their fantasy landscape as a proclamation of freedom and self-indulgence.