Deep Purple (1969) album cover

Front cover

Deep Purple, also referred to as Deep Purple III, is the third studio album by English rock band Deep Purple, released in 1969 on Harvest Records in the UK and on Tetragrammaton in the US. It was to be the last album with the original line-up consisted by Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), Jon Lord (keyboards), Ian Paice (drums), Nick Simper (bass) and Rod Evans (vocals). Commercially, this album was the least successful of the three mark I era albums. Nick Simper and Rod Evans were replaced for the next album, so that the band would continue on a heavier rock direction.


The album has a very intresting cover. It was issued in a stark gatefold sleeve, wrapped around with a segmented illustration from Hieronymus Bosch's painting "The Garden of Earthly Delights". 

Full cover

The label ran into difficulty over the use of the Museo del Prado-owned painting, which was incorrectly perceived as being anti-religious; featuring "immoral scenes", in the US and thus rejected or poorly stocked by many record shops. The original painting is in colour although it appeared on the LP in monochrome due to a printing error for the original layout and the band opted to keep it that way. The same Bosch painting (in colour) had previously been used as an album cover two years before by the American psychedelic folk band, Pearls Before Swine on their debut One Nation Underground.

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch (The inner triptych)

Hieronymus Bosch (1450–1516) was an Early Netherlandish painter known for the use of fantastic imagery to illustrate moral and religious concepts and narratives in his paintings. The Garden of Earthly Delights is a triptych painted in oil on oak, dating from between 1490 and 1510. It is formed from a square middle panel flanked by two other oak rectangular wings that close over the center as shutters. The outer wings, when folded, show a grisaille painting of the earth during the biblical narrative of Creation.

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch (The exterior)

The three scenes of the inner triptych are probably intended to be read chronologically from left to right. The left panel depicts God presenting Eve to Adam, the central panel is a broad panorama of socially engaged nude figures, fantastical animals, oversized fruit and hybrid stone formations. The right panel, which was used for the 1969 Deep Purple album coverillustrates Hell; it's a hellscape that portrays the torments of damnation. Bosch depicts a world in which humans have succumbed to temptations that lead to evil and reap eternal damnation. The tone of this final panel strikes a harsh contrast to those preceding it. The scene is set at night, and the natural beauty that adorned the earlier panels is noticeably absent. Compared to the warmth of the center panel, the right wing possesses a chilling quality —rendered through cold colourisation and frozen waterways— and presents a tableau that has shifted from the paradise of the center image to a spectacle of cruel torture and retribution. In a single, densely detailed scene, the viewer is made witness to cities on fire in the background; war, torture chambers, infernal taverns, and demons in the midground; and mutated animals feeding on human flesh in the foreground. Large explosions in the background throw light through the city gate.

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch (The right panel: Hell)

The foreground is populated by a variety of distressed or tortured figures. Some are shown vomiting or excreting, others are crucified by harp and lute, in an allegory of music, thus sharpening the contrast between pleasure and torture. A choir sings from a score inscribed on a pair of buttocks, part of a group that has been described as the "Musicians' Hell".

The Musicians' Hell (detail)

The focal point of the scene is the "Tree-Man", whose cavernous torso is supported by what could be contorted arms or rotting tree trunks. His head supports a disk populated by demons and victims parading around a huge set of bagpipes. The tree-man's torso is formed from a broken eggshell, and the supporting trunk has thorn-like branches which pierce the fragile body. A grey figure in a hood climbs a ladder into the tree-man’s central cavity, where nude men sit in a tavern-like setting. The tree-man gazes outwards beyond the viewer, his conspiratorial expression a mix of wistfulness and resignation. 

The Tree-Man (detail)

Other brutal violence is shown by a knight torn down and eaten up by a pack of wolves to the right of the tree-man.

Detail

Bosch is innovative in that he describes hell not as a fantastical space, but as a realistic world containing many elements from day-to-day human life. Animals are shown punishing humans, subjecting them to nightmarish torments that may symbolise the seven deadly sins, matching the torment to the sin. Sitting on an object that may be a toilet or a throne, the panel's centerpiece is a gigantic bird-headed monster feasting on human corpses, which he excretes through a cavity below him, into the transparent chamber pot on which he sits. The monster is sometimes referred to as the "Prince of Hell", a name derived from the cauldron he wears on his head, perhaps representing a debased crown. To his feet a female has her face reflected on the buttocks of a demon. 

The Prince of Hell (detail)

Further to the left, next to a hare-headed demon, a group of naked persons around a toppled gambling table is being massacered with swords and knives.

Detail

In the lower right-hand corner, a man is approached by a pig wearing the veil of a nun. The pig is shown trying to seduce the man to sign legal documents. 

The Pig in Nun's Clothing (detail)

Art historians and critics frequently interpret the painting as a didactic warning on the perils of life's temptations. The artist in this painting has achieved profound intricacy of symbolism, high complexity of meaning and vivid imagery.


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