The Painting Leonardo DiCaprio showed Pope Francis

During Leonardo DiCaprio’s private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican thisLeoPopeFrancis past Thursday the prominent actor gave the Holy Father an art book about the work of the Early Netherlandish painter Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516). DiCaprio turned the page to a recreation of Bosch’s famous work The Garden of Earthly Delights, a triptych altarpiece that includes a portrayal of God with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the first panel, a depiction of humanity’s sins in the second panel, and a portrayal of judgment through the damnation of hell in the third panel. Here is an image of the full work:

bosch_garden_earthly_delights

DiCaprio explained to the Holy Father how a representation of the painting hung over his crib as a child, hinting at how this classic Christian work of art would inspire the actor’s future activism for the environment: “Through my child’s eyes it represented a planet,” DiCaprio told Pope Francis, “the utopia we had been given, the overpopulation, excesses, and the third panel we see a blackened sky that represents so much to me of what’s going on in the environment.”

It is fascinating how the artwork, so important to DiCaprio, portrays the creation story itself. When closed, the triptych has a portrayal of the earth and the creation story, with God the Father sitting on the far (upper) left creating the world:

Hieronymus_Bosch_-_The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_-_The_exterior_(shutters)

In the first panel, there is a portrayal of the Garden of Eden with emphasis on God walking with Adam and Eve in the earthy paradise:

Hieronymus_Bosch_-_Triptych_of_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_(detail)_-_WGA2519

While the second (central) panel that follows presents a hedonistic, pleasure-seeking humanity, notably absent of God, it is the the third and final panel that presents God’s judgments as a result of humanity’s sins, with a vivid depiction of a “hellscape,” as seen here:

hellscape - Garden of Earthly Delights

It is fascinating how this work, even in the early stages of his childhood, represented to DiCaprio the beauty of God’s creation and of what humanity has done to it, following its denigration, inspiring the actor toward a life of activism fighting for the environment. Toward the end of the encounter, Pope Francis gave DiCaprio copies of The Joy of the Gospel and Laudato Si, the Pope’s environmental encyclical, adding “pray for me, and don’t forget.”

 

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