This is the first in a series of several posts exploring the themes of numbers, literature and art in Fifty Shades of Grey. We’ll specifically be looking at the code to Christian’s garage, 146963, and the link to Tess and Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Early Delights. I originally wrote about this 3 years ago, but since then I’ve learned so much more about Christian, Erika and the influence of art in the series. I would like to thank Aviva for her hard work in bringing all of these concepts together in a way I never could. She put together 99% of this project and dealt with my constant delays in posting it.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: My Life in Numbers
Date: May 29 2011 08:04
To: Anastasia Steele
If you drive you’ll need this access code for the underground garage at Escala: 146963. Park in bay five – it’s one of mine.
Code for the elevator: 1880.
CE, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
We are in Chapter 17 of Fifty Shades of Grey. Graduation, the day Ana agreed to Christian’s contract verbally, is over. Kate and Ana have moved to Seattle. Ana will be entering Christian’s apartment for the first time today, fully aware of what to expect and what is expected of her in their relationship. Ana’s mean machine sits on the floor beside her bed and pings to announce the arrival of the email above. Christian, as he states it, gives Ana his life in numbers. So, what does 146963 or 1880 say about him?
Since these two are the codes for the underground garage and the elevator respectively I like to think of them as the Thomas Hardy numbers – soaring high ideal and debasement. Christian told Ana before that he could hold her to some impossible high ideal like Angel Clare or debase her completely like Alec d’Urberville implying that he sees no other option between Madonna and objectifying a woman at this point of time.
Yet, this isn’t about Ana, but his life and 146963 – the code for the underground – is surprisingly connected to a triptych by Hieronymus Bosch called The Garden of Earthly Delights.
A triptych is an artwork that is divided into three sections that are hinged together and can be folded shut. Usually the middle panel is the largest and most important of the three. More often than not, the outside is adorned with a painting which is more subdued in color to emphasize the bright colorful outburst on the inside. This is also true for Bosch’s most well-known work, The Garden of Earthly Delights, which was once known as the Strawberry Painting or La Lujuria (Lust). And is true as a description for Christian. Yes, he is beautiful on the outside, but his real colors – all his 50 shades of grey and the outburst of the sparkling rainbow – are carefully guarded behind a pale, uniform, suited facade.
In the next post we’ll go on to discover what we can learn when we look at the outside of the painting.
Crissy and Aviva