The Fall of Mankind
Why is there evil in the world? Why do we feel tempted to do things we think we should not do? What are the consequences of becoming conscious of good, evil, our own consciousness, and our impending death? Why do we die?
These are fundamental questions of human existence addressed through the story of “The Fall”. The Fall refers to the Judeo-Christian origin story of humanity, in which the first humans transition from a harmonious relationship with God in a garden paradise (Eden) to separation in a world filled with discordance and death. The transition starts with a snake, as told in Genesis.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” Genesis 3:1-7 English Standard Version
From the early days of Christianity, artists have used their imaginations and tradition to portray this pivotal scene. On a basic level, the portrayals are often meant to visually interpret the text, especially for illiterate viewers.
Beyond illustrating the text, artists have used the story to communicate many deeper themes that reinforced cultural norms, including the nature of temptation, or the relationship between man, woman, and nature.
When the artist includes the three figures of the serpent, Adam, and Eve, the image can visually serve as an earthly mirror to the “Holy Trinity” of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Though the Genesis text doesn’t reveal this, the serpent is traditionally identified as Satan, a spiritual creature opposed to God the Father. Adam would be the contrast to the Son of God, and Eve is the counter to the Holy Spirit, the comforter.
The concept of the pure and innocent first couple living in a perfect environment allows artists to present an ideal human form, or idyllic nature. Observing how the human figures are drawn through the ages reflects evolving knowledge of anatomy and cultural norms of personal beauty. How much detail is devoted to the garden and its inhabitants, both flora and fauna, also reveals contemporary knowledge of the environment, as well as a philosophy of mankind’s relation to nature.
The temptation to disobedience and evil via the snake also gives artists the opportunity to introduce a sensuous element in the image. When cultural mores allow, the snake can make an obvious phallic symbol, and Eve can be interpreted to have been seduced by the serpent. Thus, the way in which artists depict Eve, Adam, the Serpent, and the garden makes an interesting study of changes in areas such as artistic technique, philosophy, or cultural views of women, men, and evil.
I’ve gathered over 435 interpretations of the self-awakening moment involving the Serpent, Eve, and Adam, spanning from Roman times to the present. I will include comments and analysis as time permits; meanwhile, one can browse the images just to enjoy their beauty. To go deeper, I will develop the series to follow the evolution of art over the ages, reflecting on how techniques or emphasis in subject matter have changed.
We may also ponder what the development of interpretations over time tells, if anything, about humanity’s condition. Is the human story a hero’s journey…humans expelled from a paradise because of their pride in thinking they could be god, followed by suffering due to overreaching ambition and malevolent action, but ending with increased knowledge over time that allows a return to Eden in an enlightened state?
Things to Ponder When Looking at The Fall
To enrich your experience as you view these images, I suggest some elements to consider.
Look at poses…Are the figures standing, sitting, fearful, seductive, curious, disinterested, dance-like?
Is the serpent in the middle, separating man and woman? Or are the man and woman united together facing the serpent?
Look at what is being emphasized—the snake, Eve’s body, the garden?
Are there man-made features, such as walls or buildings, that communicate something about the cultural context of the work?
How big is Adam, Eve, or the snake in relation to the rest of the scene?
Does the image’s main purpose seem to be a religious communication for educational or moral purposes? Or is the artist using the story as a medium to communicate beauty, seduction, or some other objective?
How does the image of the serpent change, and could it indicate different world views or psychological interpretations of temptation and evil?
Eyes Wide Open
Whether or not one believes the Genesis story literally, or sees it as myth, the message of The Fall has timeless and deep truths that address the human condition. It is the story of the awakening of human consciousness…opening our eyes to see our own nakedness, vulnerabilities, and potential for both good and evil.
It’s quite possible that the snake literally “opened our eyes” and pushed us on an evolutionary path to self-consciousness. In her book The Fruit, the Tree, and the Serpent: Why We See So Well, Primatologist and author Lynne A. Isbell proposes that as human primate ancestors co-evolved with their most dangerous predator, the snake, they developed an enhanced visual acuity for detecting the danger. The considerable neural requirements for advanced vision led to larger brains. Larger brains gave increased cognitive ability.
Eventually, primates not only saw physical objects better—their human descendants began to see the future…and even the possibility of multiple futures that depended on which action one took from a range of choices. Seeing better gave the gift of reason. Humans could reason that the snake in the tree was an immediate danger, but there was a source for the snake in the tree…and they could hunt down and eliminate that source as well. Reason told them that the fruit they were eating today was coming from a source that they could find and control. Sacrificing their labor to plant in the present meant food for the future. Reason opened their eyes to their own vulnerabilities, including the realization that they themselves faced death.
And that last insight opened up the possibility for humans to choose charitable or malevolent actions. Reason allowed humans to recognize that their own weaknesses existed in others, and that they could empathetically help people in need, or they could exploit weaknesses for their own gain. Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist explains in his work The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, “The evolution of the frontal lobes prepares us at the same time to be exploiters of the world and of one another, and to be citizens one with another and guardians of the world. If it has made us the most powerful and destructive of animals, it has also turned us, famously, into the ‘social animal’, and into an animal with a spiritual dimension.”
When we look at these images of Adam, Eve, and the serpent, we are seeing the birth of self-consciousness and the ability to foresee. We can take notice of how many artists grasp the significance of the moment in the facial expressions of Eve and Adam as they manifest their self-consciousness and gaze upon the future of humanity.
Symbology of the Snake
The snake’s role in the images of the story is crucial. The serpent opened our eyes, but that state of consciousness brought the possibility of people acting with intent to cause suffering or the death of others. Psychologist and philosopher Jordan Peterson identifies the snake in the Genesis story as a symbol of chaos, destruction, and the antithesis to ordered creation.
“The snake isn’t just the snake in the garden, and the snake isn’t just the possible snake, and the snake isn’t just the snake that’s your enemy. The snake is your friend, because your friend can betray you. And then it’s even worse than that, because you can betray you. So even if you get rid of all the outside snakes, you’ve got an inside snake.
If you’re a sophisticated human being with six million years of additional evolution, and you’re really trying to solve the problem of what it is that’s the great enemy of mankind…Well, it’s the human propensity for evil, right? That’s the figure of Satan. That’s what that figure means….
It’s motivated by absolutely nothing but malevolence and the willingness to destroy, and it has every reason for doing so.”
In the perfect garden, where all was stability and order, the snake appeared to destroy the perfection. The snake thus represents chaos that fights against creation. The German author Goethe captures the destructiveness of the serpent in his novel Faust. Faust is the man who makes a deal with the devil, Mephistopheles. At one point, the devil describes himself as a destroyer.
“I am the spirit that negates.
And rightly so, for all that comes to be
Deserves to perish wretchedly;
‘Twere better nothing would begin.
Thus everything that that your terms, sin,
Destruction, evil represent—
That is my proper element.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust – Part One
The Duality of Our Existence
The presence of evil in a good paradise reflects a fundamental duality of existence that we experience as humans. Duality of existence can be imagined in several aspects: Order versus Chaos, Good versus Evil, Creative versus Destructive, Yin versus Yang, Known versus Unknown, Security versus Liberty. It may very well be that the perception of duality stems from the nature of our hemispherical brain.
Neuroscience research has revealed much about the function of our brain’s two hemispheres. Put very simply, the left brain is more analytical and focused on details. It houses our areas for speech and for using tools. It receives data from the senses and creates a very strict and self-assured construct of the world. The right brain, on the other hand, is open to and oriented to detecting new situations. Its attention is wide-ranging rather than narrowly focused.
Like any animal, our early ancestors’ survival depended on two contradictory demands of their attention. To track, capture, kill, and eat prey, they needed sharp, undistracted, calculating attention. But to avoid becoming some other predator’s meal, they needed to be aware of threats lurking in the unknown, attending to a wide variety of threats in the surrounding environment. The left brain presents a self-contained, ordered world, even if it doesn’t always match a changing reality. The right brain presents a fluid concept of reality, dealing with the chaos of change.
Iain McGilchrist puts it this way. “I believe the essential difference between the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere is that the right hemisphere pays attention to the Other, whatever it is that exists apart from ourselves, with which it sees itself in profound relation. It is deeply attracted to, and given life by, the relationship, the betweenness, that exists with this Other. By contrast, the left hemisphere pays attention to the virtual world that it has created, which is self-consistent, but self-contained, ultimately disconnected from the Other, making it powerful, but ultimately only able to operate on, and to know, itself.”
The Garden of Eden represents the ordered world, much like the brain’s left hemisphere: structured, civilized, regulated, secure, stable. Prior to The Fall incident, Adam and Eve live in an unchallenged, unconscious bliss. Many artists attempt to convey this sense of a utopian, ordered environment.
Our experience in life, however, senses that comfort and order can also mean stagnation. At any rate, it appears that we can’t prevent the appearance of chaos, even in paradise. Chaos lurks just outside the walls of the garden, waiting for an opportunity to enter. Just recently, I moved into a newly-built house. The freshly-planted yard seemed pristine, surrounded by solid 3-meter-high walls. Within the first month, I spotted our first snake that had evidently burrowed underneath the wall from the adjacent wild field. It’s impossible for chaos to not encounter order…that’s just the way life is.
A Hero’s Journey
The upside to the story of the Fall of Mankind is that chaos can challenge us to reach a higher level of life. Without the challenge to do evil, we would not be able to make a free choice for good. One could look at Eve and Adam’s decision to disobey God’s order and to desire knowledge of good and evil as a yearning for something beyond stability. Yes, their self-awareness made them (and all humans by extension) capable of causing human suffering and death with malevolent behavior. But it also started mankind on a journey of redemption.
The “Hero’s Journey” is an archetypical story that appears in many versions of literature around the world—The Odyssey (Greek), The Journey West (Chinese), Lord of the Rings, and even Star Wars. It is the story of an innocent but naïve person who departs a safe environment on a quest. In the quest, the hero meets his or her failings and sins (which in the Hebrew and Greek original form literally means “misses the mark or target”), overcomes them through valiant effort, and eventually returns home wiser and stronger. Adam and Eve, or representatives of our first self-conscious ancestors, started humanity on the journey to solve the problem of what to do about the suffering and death that resulted from the knowledge of good, evil, and our own vulnerabilities.
In his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan Peterson states “It is far better to render Beings in your care competent than to protect them.” That’s a pretty good prescription for dealing with chaos, and it shows how humans have been solving the problem of their own self-awareness for many millennia. In the story of the fall, Adam and Eve made a poor choice in their disobedience, representing our choices to act dishonestly or malevolently, leading to expulsion from a walled, secure, orderly paradise. But that choice has led to an increasing competence in self-awareness, and for the Christian tradition, a chance to know grace and redemption. For artists who realized this, it became a hopeful and forward-looking theme hidden in the background of the fall.
And so we begin our journey of exploration of the images of this profound story. I have presented all the images I could find that were available online in chronological order of their production. I provide a link to the source for every image, and have attempted to verify the authenticity of the images and their description. I plan to analyze and comment on each image, or sets of images in some cases, to give the background of the works as well as discuss what the works may reveal about art, history, or the human condition. I would love to hear your comments and other observations!
Perhaps the earliest extant example of The Fall can be seen in a late 3rd – early 4th century catacomb traditionally known as the burial place of Christian martyrs Marcellinus and Peter. The tomb features a mixture of pagan and Christian imagery, reflective of the transitioning times. The fresco places the first Roman-looking couple on either side of the Tree of Knowledge in what would become a very common arrangement. The artist emphasizes their self-consciousness, posing them in a shameful gesture covering their reproductive organs with grape leaves. It’s unclear to me, but it appears the snake might be at the base of the tree.
Circa 950-955, Illustration of Adam, Eve, and Serpent from the Escorial Beatus manuscript, likely created in the San Millán de la Cogolla Monastery
This depiction of Adam, Eve, and the Serpent comes from a Spanish illuminated manuscript produced some time around 950 AD. There’s a gap of about 700 years from the Roman catacomb scene, but we can see a standard way of describing the story has developed: Adam and Eve on either side of the tree (Eve is more often to the right), with the serpent in the middle. The images are flat, not anatomically proportional, each covering their reproductive organs with a large leaf.
Despite the simplicity, the artist manages to create interesting expressions of the couples’ wide-open eyes looking at each other with a mixture of surprise and shame. The snake’s partially open mouth appears to be whispering his clever temptation into Eve’s ear. Notice that although some kind of fruit hangs in the tree, they are not apples, and neither Adam, Eve, nor the serpent are holding a fruit. This artistic style is known as Mozarabic, due to its heavy influence from Islamic art (which was itself influenced by Greek art).
Spain in 950 had been under Muslim rule for over 200 years, since 711AD when Moors from North Africa invaded and defeated the Visigoth ruler Roderick (who appears by most accounts to have been a tyrannical ruler who many would have been glad to see go). The early centuries of Muslim rule over the Iberian Peninsula were relatively tolerant. The capital of the area during the Umayyad Caliphate (661–750) was in Cordoba, where over 70 libraries served Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike. Such libraries were crucial for keeping the Western European world connected to Greek scholarship. Non-Muslims were “second-class citizens”, but at least they were citizens; if they followed rules such as accepting Islamic political control and not proselytizing Muslims, they were free to pursue their faith.
Monks in the San Millán de Cogolla monastery, in the wine-producing La Rioja area of Northeast Spain, had in fact just recently been freed from direct Islamic rule when this manuscript was produced around 950. A coalition of early Spanish monarchs conquered the Islamic forces in the nearby town of Nájera less than 30 years previously, although the local ruler was later forced submit to Cordoba as a vassal state. The Islamic influence on art lingered for some time in the see-saw world of Christian and Islamic struggle for political control.
The Escorial Beatus manuscript, in which today’s artwork can be found, was a commentary on an 8th century work about the “Apocalypse”. (The Apocalypse is the story of the end of the physical world as told in the Biblical work Revelation). The inclusion of “The Fall” scene in a work about the Apocalypse is likely included to set up the sweeping story of human corruption and then redemption. The story of the Apocalypse also symbolized Christian resistance to Muslim rule for many Christians of the time. In that story of the end of the earth, a menacing beast appears, who in early centuries was interpreted to be the pagan Roman Empire, but came to be seen as the Caliphates after the spread of Islam.
1151-2 Liber Scivias by Hildegard von Bingen. Source.
1300 circa. Anonymous. Speculum salvationis humanae BSB Clm 3003, Bavarian State Library, Munich, Germany. Source.
“This initial begins the antiphon for Septuagesima Sunday, “Dixit dominus ad adam de ligno quod est in medio paradisi ne comedas …” (The Lord said to Adam, Of the tree which stands in the middle of paradise, you shall not eat).” — Philadelphia Library Digital Collection
According to the “Art and the Bible” website, this woodcut shows similarities to the Dürer sketch shown above, although Adam is sitting. In the images below you can see that Cranach abandons muscular renaissance figures for gracefully tall and slim nudes. His studio produced over 50 images on this subject. I’ve collected 26 digital images for this virtual gallery.
In this woodcut, Cranach shows most of the animals in pairs. His animal reproductions in his series on the temptation and fall are often symbolic. The single lion in the foreground is a traditional symbol of Christ and here emphasizes the peaceful co-existence of creatures in paradise. The coats of arms hanging from the tree belong to Frederic III, Elector of Saxony, in whose court Cranach worked. The note on the tree has the letters LC and a winged serpent, the symbol Frederic had granted to Cranach.
From the “Christian Iconography” website:
Starting in the early 13th century, many images of the serpent in Eden give it a woman’s face. But making it female from the waist up is Michangelo’s own innovation, most likely inspired by the Echidna in Hesiod’s Theogony, 295-313:
Then Keto bore another invincible monster,
in no way like mortal men or the deathless gods;
yes, in a hollow cave she bore Echidna, divine
and iron-hearted, half fair-cheeked and bright-eyed nymph
and half huge and monstrous snake inside the holy earth,
a snake that strikes swiftly and feeds on living flesh.
First she gave birth to Orthos, the dog of Geryones,
and then she bore a stubborn and unspeakable creature,
Kerberos, the fifty-headed dog of Hades….
Her third child was the loathsome Hydra of Lerna.
In modeling the serpent on Echidna, Michelangelo is taking a hint from Hesiod that was heeded by other classically inspired artists portraying Sin as fair above, false below, and endlessly fecund. Milton used this model for the character named Sin (Paradise Lost, II, 650-59), who also mothers “hell-hounds.” Spenser used her for Errour, who mothers “a thousand yong ones” in The Faerie Queene (I, 119-35).
Also untraditional are the placement of Adam and Eve both on the same side of the tree and Adam’s reaching for the fruit himself. (In Genesis, he receives it from Eve.)
1515 Adam and Eve, 1515, glazed terracotta. Giovanni della Robbia workshop, Italian (Florence). Baltimore Museum of Art. Source.
“These two paintings depicting the biblical story of the temptation of Eve were probably made to be set within the wall paneling of a Florentine bedroom around 1520. Bugiardini painted several comparable oblong nude figures for similar settings but more typically the figures are taken from classical history or myth. Bugiardini and his contemporary Francesco Granacci, whose works are displayed nearby, both knew Michelangelo well, and were part of the group of talented painters who studied with Domenico Ghirlandaio.” — Met Museum
It’s interesting to compare Baldung’s Eve to his contemporary depiction of Venus.
This devotional book is illustrated with ninety-two woodcuts copied after prints by Albrecht Dürer, Hans Sebald Beham, and other German artists. The title could be translated as The Christian Soul’s Mystical Orchard of Fruits New and Old, an allusion to the Biblical forbidden fruit and Tree of Life. Depicting the life of Christ, portraits of saints, and scenes from the Last Judgment, the woodcuts are accompanied with prayers, hymns, and other meditative texts on the facing pages, a pictorial scheme explicitly intended to inspire and engage the reader. The woodcuts, ornamental initials, and decorative borders in this copy are colored in a contemporary hand. – Morgan Library and Museum
The Smithsonian Institute, Freer Gallery of Art website provides the following description of this Asian version of Adam and Eve: “In this painting, Adam, whom Muslims consider the father of humanity and the first prophet, is depicted riding a serpent; Eve rides a peacock. According to tradition, Iblis, the Islamic counterpart to Satan, was intent on entering the Garden of Eden to foil Adam and Eve. By appealing to his vanity, Iblis enticed the peacock, the gatekeeper of paradise, to allow the serpent, then the most beautiful of all creatures, to enter Eden. Seated between the serpent’s fangs, Iblis entered the garden and seduced Eve into eating the fruit of the forbidden tree.” Source.
From the Strasbourg Museum, where this panel is displayed (translated by Google from French): Heemskerck was in his time the most Italianate painter in Holland. During his stay in Italy, he drew after the Antiquities and was one of the first painters of the North to be struck by the poetics of ruins and became a mannerist in the wake of Michelangelo. In the spirit of the Renaissance, the study of human anatomy was paramount for an artist. The Mannerists have refined on the study of the body, from the live model and works of art, in order to show their virtuosity but also for expressive purposes. This would explain the very ostentatious, even aggressive, manner in Heemskerck of representing bodies. Unlike the Italian artists so influenced by Antiquity, in northern culture the naked body was for a long time the object of shame.
Panel with two knife handle designs, both with scenes under arches at top. The motif at left shows Adam and Eve tempted by the snake, after a design by Heinrich Aldegrever (Bartsch VIII.363.3). The scene at right shows a man with a rose before the seated figure of Death, shown as a skeleton, and is based on a design by Jan Saenredam after Hendrik Goltzius (Bartsch III.258.123). Both designs have a blackwork background with grotesques. From a series of twelve plates. Met Museum.
“The imagery of this panel is unusual in that it juxtaposes King Charles I and his consort, Henrietta Maria, with Adam and Eve beneath the Tree of Knowledge. To some extent, the panel can be classified with other commonly occurring images of the royal couple in contemporary embroidery. These appear to have been primarily celebratory or commemorative in nature, but the direct association made here between contemporary royalty and Adam and Eve is unique among surviving embroidered pictures, indeed among the images of royalty in every medium. It therefore has significance within the wider field of royal iconography of the Caroline era.
The embroidery can be dated to a time after 1634, because the poses of Charles I and Henrietta Maria are derived from an engraving by Robert van Voerst first published in that year. The print shows Charles and Henrietta Maria exchanging olive and laurel branches, emblems of peace and military glory, and it celebrates their marriage and the political advantages that accrued from it. The print is a copy of the painting by Anthony van Dyck of 1632, which itself is a reworking of an original by Daniel Mytens of ca. 1630–32. ” Met Museum
“The Temptation of Adam and Eve was one of the most popular subjects to be depicted on English “blue-dash” chargers. This example, dating to about 1650, is among the earliest. It is part of a group of seven chargers with depictions of Adam and Eve that are notably more naturalistic than the more typical crude renderings.” – Met Museum
“Eighteenth-century embroideries wider than they are tall, like this one, were called “chimneypieces” because they were meant to be hung above a parlor mantel, a place of honor. The prominent display of this type of schoolgirl needlework signaled that the young lady of the home had been well educated and was ready to become an accomplished wife. The designs found on chimneypieces were usually derived from European print sources; in this case, scenes from the story of Adam and Eve were adapted from prints of paintings in the renowned collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria. The Hapsburg archduke was patron to Flemish artist David Teniers the Younger (1610–1690), who was charged with overseeing the publication of Leopold Wilhelm’s collection of Italian paintings. The resulting volume, called the Theatrum Pictorium (1660), was the first illustrated printed collection catalogue. Several editions of the highly influential book were published, and at least one copy clearly found its way to the American colonies. In order to aid the catalogue’s team of engravers, Teniers painted small copies of the works in the duke’s collection.” — Met Museum
From the Philadelphia Library Digital Collection:
The tune Herzlich thut mich verlangen was composed by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).
Over thirty editions of Adam and Eve broadsides were produced in southeastern Pennsylvania, by numerous printers.
Melody: My heart is filled with longing, etc.
When God created the world and all creatures without help and weapons, he spoke: only a human is missing, who would be there with wit and good sense; the world is very empty, and no human is in it.
2. The Lord came down to this beautiful world, and took a little soil and made the human from it. So Adam walk up and down in the garden and, oh! If someone could lead me and be with me at all times.
3. Adam looked around, and he thought back and forth, where shall I go? If only a human was here who could refresh me, I could be quiet; someone who could lavish good things, this is only what I mean.
4. Adam now fell asleep, nothing could awaken him. Then the one who created him came and took a rib from him and created from it a woman, from this tender body, who will always remain with him, who will be Adam’s wife.
5. When Adam woke up he spoke: My God and Lord! You came quietly to me and now I am no longer whole. I had all me limbs until you Lord came to me. Give me back my rib that you just took from me.
6. Don’t let the rib rue you, it is and remains yours. You will be happy about it, to be alone is not good. The rib that I took from your tender body will suit you well and will always remain yours.
ADAM and EVE.
7. They soon strolled through the garden here and there. Adam lead his wife, when they became aware of a tree that was beautiful to behold, standing in the middle of the garden. We want to go to it to look at the beautiful fruit.
8. Adam, you shall not eat of this fruit, listen, if you forget this you will be a dead man. Death will meet rightly the one who scorns my word, and also his family; Adam, look at this carefully.
9. The snake bent amiably, looked down from the tree, showing her the beautiful fruit. Come, eat, o beautiful bride. She still look at it, took it, and gave it to her husband. Adam, you can trust me. He took it and bit into it.
10. The snake spoke: By no means God has said such, I want to commit myself, eat and dare freshly; you yourself must admit, don’t be so desperate, you all can see it that death does not bother you.
11. After they had eaten the fruit they soon became aware that they had been naked, both were very much ashamed, hid in the Garden, covered with fruit. To await the punishment was clear to their eyes.
12. Adam, you fell, you and your whole family must now dwell in suffering, and remain the sin’s servant. Who put his into your sense; that you hurried to the tree that I forbade? This curse is your gain.
13. The woman that you gave me seduced me to it. Eve! what were you thinking? You are bringing us into much turmoil. Had I not believed you, the clarity is lost, I am called a slave, chosen to die.
ADAM and EVE.
14. Eve, what have you done, how could you dare? The snake that is hanging there seduced me with cunning. O snake! You lied, the clarity is now gone. O shame, we were betrayed! This now is our gain.
15. I will set strife between you and your wife; it shall hurt your head, a son from her body, on the stomach you shall crawl, soil shall be your food, and you shall bow before everything, this shall be your punishment and torment.
There stands the tree full of beautiful fruit that is so desirable in appearance and so heartily nourishing in pleasure, stands there in the beautiful Paradise. Through which Eve let herself be seduced, took pleasure in the beguiling (?) appearance. The fruit tastes sweet in the mouth, but death came at the same hour.
“The painting was presented at the 1855 World’s Fair in Paris but after the painter’s death it went missing.
It represents Eve lying over flowers in Eden while she is going to grasp the forbidden fruit on the advice of a winged snake that is urging her to sin.
The biblical episode is here reduced to a pure pretext, since more than an Eve, the woman has the lecherous attitude and the alluring look of a seductive bather or a Venus reminding of the “Baigneuses” by Gustave Courbet, presented in the same year at the Paris Salon.
The charming attitude and the sensuous carnality of Eve divided the critics of Bezzuoli’s time ranging from admiration for his masterly use of colour or the “unbridled voluptuousness inspired by a dream of love” up to accusations of vulgarity or superficiality. Moreover, the subject of nudity in the realist culture of the second half of the nineteenth century has often provoked scandalized reactions, as masterfully underlined by Paul Valery, when he stated, not without irony, that for his contemporaries “the nude is a sacred thing, that is, impure. It is appropriate in statues, and not always …The nude does not have but two meanings in people’s minds: sometimes it is the symbol of beauty, sometimes of the obscene”.
Giuseppe Bezzuoli is perhaps the greatest Tuscan painter of the Restoration era and one of the main protagonists of Italian Romantic painting. He was able to masterly manage many different pictorial genres, excelling both in historical and literary subjects and in large canvases or decorations for public and private premises. He was initially active at the Napoleonic court of Elisa Baciocchi and later at the Habsburg-Lorraine one working also for other illustrious Italian and foreign customers. Moreover, what is particularly interest is his landscapes and portraits, two fundamental aspects of Bezzuoli’s artistic production through which he influenced the following generation of artists, especially the Macchiaioli.” – Uffizi Galleries, Pitti Palace.
Though not an image of Eve and the Serpent, the allusion to the Temptation scene is strong. The Greek goddesses dancing around the tree are the nymphs of the evening. By the legend, the tree of golden apples were a gift to Hera and Zeus from Gaia, the personification of Earth. Hera, who entrusted care of the trees to the nymphs, also placed a hundred-headed dragon to guard the tree day and night. The apples play in Greek mythology as having the ability to sow discord; it was a golden apple that the goddess of strife tossed into a feast of the gods as a prize for the most beautiful woman. That led to the “Judgement of Paris,” when he chose between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. The vain jealousy caused by the competition led to the Trojan War. Thus, the story of a tree, its fruit that causes discord, a serpent, and idyllic women parallels the Garden of Eden story.
Yohannes IV was the first and last Tigrayan-ethnic Ethiopian emperor after the so-called Era of Princes, during which time the kingdom lacked any strong central authority.
His reign was characterized by a centralization of power in Tigray, fervent Christian orthodoxy, and violent crusading against non-Christian peoples all of which resulted in the overall militarization of the Christian highlands.
“Fantastical orchard. Its seducing plants stimulate sexual desire of Eve in the Garden of Eden. Her arm timidly extends trying to pick an evil flower. The monster Chimera flutters its red wing to graze her temple.”
“My inspiration is from Alfred Durer (the dimensions are similar, not any other detail really). My version of Eve has her going through “sin”, but through the process realizing her strength. Her healing (rose on chest) is the journey that teaches her how to not be fooled.” – Kakkia Kouva