The center panel is by far the most controversial among academics. Titled by the artist as The Garden of Earthly Delights, it gives the entire piece its name. Although not the fantastic environment of Paradise, it is not quite an earthly world either. Hundreds of nude human figures cavort among bizarre buildings and outrageous animals. There is a general feeling of innocence about them, as they explore and play in the peculiar space.

Bosch was fascinated by alchemy, the science of his day, and filled his works with subtle references to it. Echoing the first panel, the centerpiece is a large structure that appears to be partly organic and partly manmade, a hybrid organism that would have been of particular interest to an alchemist.

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