The results of the Bosch instruments experiment (image from

Where will the visual tricks and lies end in the dystopian world of early Netherlandish painter Hieronymus Bosch? A group of enterprising Oxford musicologists have endeavored to recreate the musical instruments found in the artist’s famed 16th century painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” a painting that’s well known for its… unreality. Conclusion? “Whatever Bosch’s painting depicts, it’s not possible to play a flute with your bottom.”

Awesomely pointless academia win!

Bosch’s painting is upheld as one of the icons of surrealism, an utter submersion into the unearthly and the bizarre far before Dali hatched out of an egg on the beach. Clearly, it only makes sense that someone would take it upon themselves to recreate the painting as if it depicts the day-to-day Real Life of a Bruegel. The academics’ attempt to “bring music education forward one step at a time” by copying Bosch is comically serious. Only two of the ten instruments are playable, but they sound “horrible.” Bosch’s hurdy-gurdy design “seems to be fundamentally flawed. When you turn the handle, you get a half-hearted buzzing noise, but you can’t get any melodies out of it.”

Instruments as depicted by Bosch (image from

We have it from a very reliable source that giant flowers can indeed be placed in anal cavities, as per Bosch’s painting, but alas his knowledge of music appears to be limited. Check out “The Garden of Earthly Delights” and judge for yourself whether or not the instruments look playable. Also, read Leith’s article, it’s hilarious.

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly, Kill Screen, Creators...

3 replies on “Breaking: Hieronymus Bosch Lied, You Can’t Play the Flute With Your Butt”

    1. Thanks! Sometimes I worry about dumbing down a complicated form of cultural expression, but then I laugh it off, because stuff like this is too funny to take seriously.

      1. I think this is a fine summary, not dumbed down! And sometimes it is necessary – for humor or just for online communication – to get to the simple facts and make a point. I look forward to seeing more – also on your new website.

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