This is one of my favorite paintings from the Renaissance period, because it is creative, and visionary for the time. It depicts Christ entering the gates of Hell and telling them the good news of his unlocking the gates of heaven (Wiki). This is Limbo, where people who were in God’s Favor would go if they lived before Jesus’ time, and he would go to unlock the Gates of Heaven for them to join him. This is what ensured that those before Christ would be able to get to Heaven. It’s a fantastic outline of what was considered taboo at the time, there are butchers skinning and bleeding people, demons tempting humans with gambling, and limbs and bugs all over the place!
This painting was actually painted by a ‘Follower of Bosch,’ but is often credited to Bosch because it was his style that was reborn in a ‘Bosch Revival” period in the mid 16th century. If you were to search Google for “Christ in Limbo – Bosch” you would find that there are actually several paintings similar to this one, all with similar aspects. They usually contain a gateway with or without Christ’s presence; the burning city in the background, I presume it is the next level of Hell; and also the centerpiece that no one can miss, the giant mouth with people lined up in front of it and inside.
The piece was painted in the Netherlands (Philadelphia Museum of Art) a little before the Reformation. The reason there are several types of these paintings, and that there are none directly from Bosch, or directly to anyone, or a way to link them to anyone even, is because of the Reformation. During the Reformation, iconoclasm was common and many unknown works were lost, the ones that were saved were hidden away from the religious coups.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/103623.html
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Christ In Limbo by Hieronymus Bosch, 1575. Image:http://www.imamuseum.org/art/collections/artwork/christ-limbo-bosch-hieronymus