- Reference number
- Bosch, Hieronymus
- Ca. 1516
- 147 cm x 212 cm
- On display
- Royal Collection
Open, this triptych addresses the subject of sin. The left panel shows its origin on Earth, from the fallen angels to Eve's sin. The center shows humanity dragged into sin. The hay wagon is a metaphor of biblical origin that alludes to how ephemeral and fleeting things are in this world. This illustrates a verse from Isaiah (Isaiah 40: 6-7): “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth”. The closed triptych depicts an aged pilgrim walking the road of life, beset by danger.
In the central panel, Bosch recreates the Flemish proverb “the world is like a hay cart and everyone takes what he can”. All of the powers-that-be, including the clergy —censured for vices such as avarice and lust— want to catch that hay and climb onto the wagon. They have no qualms about committing all sorts of crimes to do so, including murder.
Another version is in the Monastery at El Escorial and is supposed to be the one Felipe II bought from Felipe de Guevara in 1570. The one in the Prado must have also belonged to Felipe II, even earlier than Guevara's, but the first document to mention it is the 1636 inventory of the Alcázar Palace in Madrid.