Hieronymus Bosch’s late fifteenth century masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights has been described by the fantasy novelist Peter S. Beagle as an “erotic derangement that turns us all into voyeurs, a place filled with the intoxicating air of perfect liberty”. The painting with its chaotic air of eroticism has a perplexing ambiguity, being seen by some as warning against sinful self-indulgence. Others say it celebrates a paradise lost.
This 11th edition of Quintessentially Asia magazine has Heavenly Pleasures as its theme and was inspired by Bosch’s painting. We took the story that Bosch tells in his work and used it as a signpost to reinterpret important aspects of modern culture.
The end result was the selection of six heavenly pleasures, Passion, Love, Reconciliation, Joy, Creation and Strength. They are depicted in this edition’s fashion shoot, on page 50 through 57.
We believe that in The Garden of Earthly Delights, which is a triptych, the side panels are known to represent the Creation, with Adam and Eve, and Damnation, being the consequences of mankind’s sins against God. The central panel is the ambiguous one. The naked figures cavort with horses, are fed by giant birds and emerge from eggs and translucent bubbles.
We think that the central panel shows people behaving with Passion, Love, Reconciliation, Joy, Creation and Strength and that Bosch’s message was to say humanity would remain in this state of naked joy, close to God, so long as they did not abandon these qualities.
The stories in this edition are evocations of the seven pleasures, where a pleasure is defined as an act that produces a beneficial result, one that enhances the world and its store of enchantment. In Cool Hands, Warm Heart Tiffany & Co.’s new creative director Francesca Amfitheatrof, shows how passion, joy and strength can be used to make beguiling jewellery with a timeless narrative edge.
In History’s Child, we explore how the Peninsula group has sought to reconcile the past with the needs of a modern luxury hotel, a mission that can only succeed if love and creativity come together in equal measure.
Visits to the coolest London hotels (Bed, Bath and Beyond), the Maldives (Treasure Islands) and Bhutan (Twin Peaks) offer venues for celebrating all the heavenly pleasures with a great view and a glass of fine champagne.
In The Tao of Sex we explore China’s own artistic versions of earthly delights and Devil in the Details takes us into the passionate world of artist Joe Black. All these stories serve at the behest of a sybaritic deity.
As they are read and enjoyed we hope they will inspire a deeper exploration of the pleasures that heaven can offer, at least in the form of earthly delights.
Cover: Deep blue Marcel Duchamp by Joe Black, 7,600 chess pieces on aluminium, Courtesy of Opera Gallery