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Cimone Trout
Professor Erica Cook
ARTHIST 354
October 29, 2014
Article Response: Lilith in Boschs Garden of Earthly Delights
By Virginia Tuttle
In Virginia Tuttles article, Lilith in Boschs Garden of Earthly Delights, she argues that
the woman represented in the left panel of Hieronymus Boschs Delights is meant to be Lilith, a
demon who is largely associated with lust that according to in the Jewish folklore was Gods first
attempt to create a female partner for Adam. The female figure in this scene is often interpreted
and assumed to be Eve who is being blessed by Christ and presented to Adam, but Tuttle argues
that is more likely a representation of the creation and presentation of Lilith to Adam. In order to
support her claim, Tuttle provides a mass of evidence through comparison of the iconography
used in this scene and the painting as a whole to other Bosch works; discussing various scenes
depicting the creation of Eve and Eden as a whole; referencing the inclusion of Lilith in other
works about the Creation story; by addressing the fact that many Medieval and renaissance
Christians were fascinated Jewish folklore and that there were several popular texts that
referenced the legend of Lilith published or were widely read when Bosch painted Delights. In
the last pages of her article, Tuttle asserts that interpreting the first panel as the creation of Lilith
also fits into the rest of the artwork because it further supports and explains why the overall
theme that is depicted in Delights is lustfulness, why the center panel is focus on the sexual
corruption of man, features witchcraft and also demonic motifs In the end she concludes that
Boschs Delights is meant to reference the Talmud, not Genesis, and he uses the Talmundic
figure, Lilith, in order to convey, the notiona near obsession among Boschs
contemporaries that postlapsarian humanity is constantly subject to beguilement of the flesh
by demonic forcers which existed prior to the Fall and since that moment have had a nearly
irresistible power over us (Tuttle, 130). Overall, Tuttle presents a very compelling interpretation
of Boschs Delights and provides a very thorough explanation why Bosch would include Lilith in
this triptych as well.
Tuttles article, in my opinion, does a very impressive job to explain, support and assert
an unconventional interpretation of a very elaborate and puzzling painting. Before I read this

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article, I assumed initially that it was Eve being presented in the left panel, but I felt that it this
assumption does not fit very well in the artwork as a whole. Her interpretation that the left hand
panel is Lilith, a Talmudic demon that is associated with lust, in my opinion, seems more
believable and also creates a cohesive theme between the three panels than interpreting the
female as Eve in the left panel. Also, I believe her argument supplies a missing element that
better explains the extravagant emphasis on lasciviousness, witchcraft and demise of mankind in
the other two panels of this piece. Besides proposing an interesting interpretation, she supports
her assertion in variety of ways. For instance, she discusses not only the iconography of Garden
of Earthly Delights, but looks at several other Bosch works, paintings of other artist in the
Northern Renaissance and addresses the cultural, literary and scholarly atmosphere at this time
period as well. Furthermore, all of her evidence supports her main assertion that that Jewish
folklore was highly influential and widely known in Christian culture in Europe around the
renaissance and medieval time periods, thus strengthening her argument that Bosch is most likely
portraying the Creation of Lilith. All in all, I think Tuttles argument is very successful because
she analyzes the iconography, socio-history, literature and art that surrounded the cultural
environment in which this painting was created in order to support her claim.
Although, I feel Tuttles article and thesis is highly successful, there are a few points that
need more explanation or attention in order to make her argument unquestionable. Her
explanation that the woman in the left panel is Lilith and not Eve needs more attention. Tuttle
gives excellent analysis of inconsistencies between Delights and other paintings that definitely
portray of the creation of Eve and the Garden of Eden by Bosch and other renaissance artists, but
Tuttle doesnt explain how Delights is more likely referencing the Talmud than Genesis enough
in order that make it seem like the most reasonable explanation. In last few pages of her article
where she asserts how her interpretation of Lilith in the left panel effects the entire work,
including how interpretations of Eve or some other female figure effects the painting as whole
after or within this section might have been a way to readdress whether the female figure is more
likely Lilith or Eve. For instance, before this article I interpreted the left panel as representing
God presenting Eve to Adam and blessing them, but their portrayal and surrounding environment
overall foreshadows their humanly imperfections, lustful nature and eventual sin. Now after
reading this article, I believe either interpretation is valid, but Im not more convinced that it is
Lilith or Eve.

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In essence, Tuttles article does a superb job asserting her theory that the female figure in
the left panel in Boschs painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights, is actually the demon Lilith
instead of Eve. What makes her argument so compelling is her thorough analysis of different
cultural elements surrounding this painting which supports how Jewish mythology was widely
known and read during the Northern Renaissance. But, in the end, there is not enough emphasis
in the article on whether or not it is more likely Lilith or Eve represented in the left panel in order
to make either interpretations more valid than the other. Although there is still room for doubt in
Tuttles theory, all in all, her interpretation does provide a valuable alternative lens that can help
further enrich the comprehension and consideration of this painting.

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Work Cited
Tuttle, Virginia. "Lilith in Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights"." Simiolus: Netherlands
Quarterly for the History of Art. 15.2 (1985): 119-130. Print.