Hieronymus Bosch (Jheronimus van Aken) was born c. 1450 into a family of painters, and most probably studied with his father. He was raised in the town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, from which he received his moniker. Like most professional artists of the Renaissance, Bosch’s skills were not confined to a single medium. He also designed stained glass windows and brass pieces, and even created some embroidered pieces. His work used vivid imagery to depict moral and religious ideas and stories, and he set himself apart from his contemporaries with the disturbing detail of his panel pictures. He painted symbolic narrative renditions of the dance between heaven and hell through biblical-themed landscapes upon which play a revolving cast of fantastical, and often macabre humans, animals, monsters, and make-believe creatures.
Religion played a pivotal role in the life and work of Bosch. In the town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, many of the people were employed by the church in various jobs and were members of religious groups. The cityscape was also dominated by churches, including St. John’s Cathedral.
Bosch was a member of the confraternity of the Illustrious Brotherhood of Our Blessed Lady, that venerated the Virgin Mary. Many artists and musicians were also members of the brotherhood. Bosch received numerous commissions from the Brotherhood. Around 1480, Bosch married Aleyt van den Meerveen, a wealthier older woman. The couple moved to the nearby town upon the inheritance of a house from her family in Oirschot.
Bosch produced around sixteen triptychs during his lifetime, many remain intact, while a small number are fragmented. His artistic career has been divided into three distinct periods, which reflect his age and manner in which he was producing art. They are the early works (c. 1470–1485), the middle period (c. 1485–1500), and the late period (c. 1500 until his death in 1516). The Garden of Earthly Delights was painted in his middle period, c. 1490- 1500. A record in the accounts of the Brotherhood of Our Lady, of which Bosch was a member, records his date of death as being in 1516, with a funeral mass taking place on 9th August of that year.