There’s something unusually exciting about finding a hidden or discreetly placed element in a well-known painting. I can only imagine the thrill of the physician who first noticed the curious presence of a human brain in Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam: god, his retinue of angels, and their cloak map neatly onto some of the main neural structures, including the major sulci in the cerebellum, the pituitary gland, the frontal lobe, and the optic chiasm. It’s hard to gauge Michelangelo’s motivation for doing so, but considering his documented interest in dissection and physiology, the find is not particularly surprising.
Last week, the Internet became similarly excited when an enterprising blogger named Amelia transcribed, recorded, and uploaded a musical score straight out of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, painted between 1490 and 1510. The kicker? Amelia found the score written on a suffering sinner’s butt. The poor, musically-branded soul may be seen in the bottom left-hand corner of the painting’s third and final panel (click the image below to enlarge), wherein Bosch depicts the various torture methods of hell. The unfortunate hell-dweller lies prostrate atop an open music book, crushed by a gigantic lute, while a toad-like demon stretches his tongue towards his tuneful buttocks. Another inhabitant is strung up on a harp above the scene.
The piece, which Amelia transcribed and recorded, can be heard in the video above or in a choral arrangement made by blogger Well Manicured Man. It is… unusual. Although we can’t ascertain why Bosch decided to write out this particular melody, since scant biographical information about the painter survives, it’s possible that he decided to include music in his depiction of the inferno because it was viewed as a sign of sinful pleasure. For those who haven’t yet had a chance to hear it, listen to Medieval-era butt music above, or at Amelia’s site.