Saturday, March 4, 2017

"You Will Be Like Gods"

Hans Holbein the Younger, Adam and Eve
German, 1517
Basel, Kunstmuseum
The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground 
and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, 
and so man became a living being.

Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, 
and placed there the man whom he had formed.
Out of the ground the LORD God made various trees grow 
that were delightful to look at and good for food, 
with the tree of life in the middle of the garden 
and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals
that the LORD God had made.
The serpent asked the woman,
"Did God really tell you not to eat
from any of the trees in the garden?"
The woman answered the serpent:
"We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;
it is only about the fruit of the tree
in the middle of the garden that God said,
'You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'"
But the serpent said to the woman:
"You certainly will not die!
No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it
your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods
who know what is good and what is evil."
The woman saw that the tree was good for food,
pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.
So she took some of its fruit and ate it;
and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her,
and he ate it.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened,
and they realized that they were naked;
so they sewed fig leaves together
and made loincloths for themselves.”

Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7 (Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent, Year A)

Scenes from the Book of Genesis
from Psalter-Hours of Guiluys de Boisleux
French (Arras), 1246-1260
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M730, fol. 10r
Continuing the series of posts on the first stories of the Book of Genesis, we will look at the images corresponding to this reading from the first Sunday of Lent for year A, which we are currently in.

James Tissot, Adam and Eve in the Garden
French, 1896-1902
New York, Jewish Museum
This painting by Tissot, which seems to
anticipate the Flower Children of the 1970s 
by 80 years gives a good impression of the 
original, innocent state of Adam and Eve.






After God created the world and filled it with abundant resources and animal inhabitants (Genesis 1:1-25) He created two other creatures, a man, called Adam, and a woman, called Eve by the man (Genesis 1:26-31).  












He gave them a beautiful place, a garden, to live in (Genesis 2: 8) and told them they could eat any of the fruit of any of the trees, except one, just one.  
Jan Brueghel I, The Earthly Paradise
Flemish, c. 1600
Paris, Musee du Louvre
The subject here is the Earthly Paradise, the Garden of Eden, before the Fall.  Brueghel has crowded it with an abundance of animal and vegetable life.  The human inhabitants are only visible as tiny white figures in the far left background.  They are shown listening to God, who is presumably telling them that all of it is theirs to enjoy, except for the fruit of one specific tree.











Adam and Eve Promise God Not To Eat of the Tree
from Weltchronik
German, 1355-1365
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M769, fol. 14ra





















They promised to obey this request and seemed innocent and happy to comply with this one restriction (Genesis 2:24-25). 

But, God had also given these creatures a little something else, not mentioned specifically in the Bible, but there nevertheless, because it is one of the things that separates them from the other creatures.  This is Free Will.  The pledge they took to respect God's command was given from their Free Will.  However, since their Will is Free, the pledge could be broken as well as given.  It just needed the right temptation.  



Enter the Tempter.  Also in the garden was a serpent.  Traditionally this ‘serpent’ is imaged as Lucifer, the fallen archangel, the one who rejected obedience to God’s will and was ejected from heaven (Revelation 12: 7-9) and whose sole existence has become rage at God and efforts to subvert God’s work.  

The Serpent Tempts Adam and Eve
from Weltchronik
German (Regensburg), 1355-1365
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M769, fol.13r




In art this ‘serpent’ is frequently seen as a snake with a human face.  This ‘cunning’ creature seduces Eve to taste of the fruit of the Tree of Life with the promise that ‘you will be like gods, who know good and evil’ (Genesis 3:5).  This is not a lie, but it also does not exactly mean what it sounds like it means.  Eve naively assumes the surface meaning and displays the desire to be ‘like gods”.  She eats and then persuades Adam to eat. 




James Tissot, Adam and Eve Perceive Their Nakedness
French, c. 1900-1902
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
Just as Tissot caught the quality of innocence in Adam and
Eve before the Fall, so he has caught the shock they feel on
realizing what they have done.







As soon as both have eaten, they realize the terrible error they have committed through their desire to ‘be like gods’.  They have disobeyed the God who created them and now understand what His words meant, for they ‘know good and evil’.  They know that they have done wrong, committed the sin of disobedience, and they recognize their changed condition for ‘the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.‘ (Genesis 3:7)



The story continues.  
When they heard “God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 
The LORD God then called to the man and asked him: Where are you?
He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.”
Then God asked: Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat? (Genesis 3:8-11)
God Accusing Adam and Eve
Italian, 1286-1300
Torri in Sabina, Santa Maria in Vescovio, Santa Maria in Vescovio

Francesco and Jacopo Bassano, Adam Discovered By God
Italian, c. 1570
Madrid, Museo del Prado






































Jan van der Straet, God Discovering the Fall
Belgian, 1585-1587
Florence, Palazzo Della Gherardesca, Chapel
























Charles Joseph Natoire, The Rebuke of Adam and Eve
French, 1740
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art






















Ernst Deger, Adam and Eve Hide from God
German, 1849-1859
Stolenfels, Schloss Stolzenfels, Chapel





















Then the Blame Game begins (and it hasn't ended since).  

The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.”
The LORD God then asked the woman: What is this you have done? The woman answered, “The snake tricked me, so I ate it.” (Genesis 3:12-13)

The fingers are pointed as if to say, "It's not my fault!  She or he made me do it/led me astray/enticed me.  Don't look at me, I'm just a poor victim."
 
God Questions Adam and Eve
German, 1015
Hildesheim, Church of Saint Mary

Pieter Coecke van Aelst, Adam Accuses Eve
Flemish, after 1540
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum
Pablo de Cespedes, God Questions Adam and Eve
Spanish, c. 1577
Rome, Santissima Trinita dei Monti, Cappella Bonfili

































Domenichino, God Questions Adam and Eve
Italian, 1626
Washington, National Gallery of Art
Francisco Bayeu y Subias, God Questions Adam and Eve
Spanish, 1771
Madrid, Museo del Prado


All through the history of Western art artists have been drawn to depict this story.  In just about every era and place there are images of Adam and Eve, our first parents, whose inclinations toward curiosity, willfulness and disobedience we have all inherited.  Their sin is also ours, by descent, Original Sin.  It is our tendency to listen to the whispers of the ‘serpent’ telling us that it’s OK to do this or that because we want to.  After all it will make us ‘like gods’ for the moment (and usually resulting in the immediate realization that the fruit can be very bitter indeed).  

Because this strikes such a chord of response throughout the ages the image of the decisive moment is one of the most common in all of art history.

In Sculpture and Architectural Decoration


Starting with images from the early years of Christian church building, through all the eras that followed, the image of the naked couple has been constant in our architectural decoration and sculpture, as well as in our painting.
Fragment of Floor Mosaic from an Early Byzantine Church
Northern Syrian, late 5th-early 6th Century
Cleveland, Museum of Art
The Fall of Man
German, 1015
Hildesheim, Church of Saint Mary























Gislebertus, Eve Takes the Fruit
French, c. 1130
Autun, Musee Rolin
The Fall of Man
Italian, 1174-1189
Monreale, Santa Maria la Nuova

Stories from Genesis
Italian, 1180-1190
Monreale, Cathedral

Cameo of Carnelian, Diamond Gold, Silver
Italian, c. 1350
St. Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum
Giovanni Bon, The Fall of Man
Italian, 1400-1410
Venice, Palazzo Ducale
























Jacopo della Quercia, The Fall of Man
Italian, 1425-1428
Bologna, Church of San Petronio



Tillman Riemenschneider, Adam and Eve
German, 1491-1493
Wuerzburg, Mainfraenkisches Museum























Ludwig Krug, Adam and Eve
German, 1518
Cleveland, Museum of Art
Meester IP, Model for a jewel
South German, 1530
Amsterdam,Rijksmuseum






















Daniel Mauch, Adam
German, c. 1535
Cleveland, Museum of Art
Daniel Mauch, Eve
German, c. 1535
Cleveland, Museum of Art

Johann Brabender, The Fall of Man
German, c. 1550
Muenster, Museum fuer Kunst und Kultur
Fall of Man
South German or Austrian, c. 1600-1650
Washington, National Gallery of Art

Nicolo Roccaatagliata, Adam and Eve
Italian, c. 1625-1630
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum


























Franz Erler, The Fall of Man
Austrian, c, 1879
Vienna,Church of the Divine Savior
Gottfried Schadow, Adam and Eve
German, 1906-1907
Berlin, Nationalgalerie der Staatliche Museen zu Berlin


























Auguste Rodin, Adam
French, 1880-1881
Cast 1910
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Auguste Rodin, Eve
French, 1880-1881
Cast 1910
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

In Painting


Painting, of course, allows the artist greater opportunities to play with the elements of an image.
 
Adam and Eve
Italian, 1101-1200
Ceri di Cerveteri, Santa Maria dell'Immacolata Concezione
Sometimes Adam and Eve have been shown simply standing, sometimes with the snake, sometimes without.  In some images they appear in the sense of a symbolic reference.  We are just given the key to the narrative, we do not see the event taking place.  We are the ones who supply the narrative when we see the image.

Adam and Eve
Italian, 1286-1300
Torri in Sabina, Santa Maria in Vescovio


























Adam and Eve
from Queste del saint graal
Belgian (Hainaut), 1344
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 122, fol. 259v


Adam and Eve
from Bible historiale by Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), 1400-1425
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 160, fol. 8v
This artist takes the unusual step of clothing Adam and Eve.  As one can see, Adam and Eve are most frequently
shown nude, often the only nude figures seen during most periods of the art produced between Late Antiquity and the
Renaissance.





















Masolino da Panicale, Adam and Eve
Italian, 1426-1427
Florence, Santa Maria del Carmine, Brancacci Chapel










Paolo Uccello, Adam and Eve
Italian, 1432-1436
Florence, Santa Maria Novella, Green Cloister 




















Rambures Master, Three Temptations (Jacob Tempting Esau, The Devil Tempting Christ in
the Wilderness and the Temptation of Adam and Eve
from Biblia pauperum
French (Hesdin or Amiens), c. 1470
The Hague, Meermano Museum
MS MMW 10 A15, fol. 25v

Jean Colombe and Workshop, Adam and Eve
from Hours of Anne of France
French (Bourges), 1473
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M677, fol. 48v
Hendrick Goltzius after Bartholomeus Spranger
Adam and Eve
Dutch, 1585
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

























But, mostly, and from early on, the vast majority of images show the story, the event, the crucial action that determined so much.  For with the eating of the fruit, which is usually shown as an apple, the first parents chose to disobey the God who had given them everything and set for us the example and the inclination to do the same thing.  So, in these images we will see the apple (sometimes shown as a pear or as a pomegranate as well) in the hand of one or other or both.  One, usually but not always shown as Eve, will be the most active figure.  She reaches for the apple in the tree, or hands it to her spouse with more or less coyness.

The Fall of Man
Moutier-Grandval Bible
French, c. 840
London, British Library
MS 10546
This page in a Carolingian Bible tells the entire story of Adam and Eve, from the Creation of Adam to their life after their expulsion from Eden.  
The Fall of Man
from St. Alban's Psalter (Psalter of Christina of Markyate)
English, Abbey of St. Alban's, First half 12th Century
Hildesheim Dombibliothek
MS St. God. 1, fol. 17
The Fall of Man
from Picture Bible
French (St. Omer, Abbey of St. Bertin), c. 1190-1200
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 76 F 5, fol. 2v





























The Fall of Man
from a Gospel Book
Austrian (Seitenstetten, Benedictine Abbey), 1225-1275
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 808, fol. 196r
Here the two are already wearing fig leaves, even 
though they have just begun to eat, and seemingly 
oblivious to God, who watches from above.

God Warning Adam and Eve and The Fall of Man
from Psalter of St. Louis and Blanche of Castille
French, c. 1225
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Arsenal 1186, fol. 11v





























The Fall of Man
from Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi
English (Ramsey Abbey), 1250-1299
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M628, fol. 2r

The Cholet Group, The Fall of Man
from Northern French Hebrew Biblical Miscellany
French (Paris), 1283-1285
London, British Library
MS Additional 11639, fol. 520v
Illustrations of Biblical stories were not limited to Christian
books.  Many Hebrew books contained illustrations as well.






























The Fall of Man
from Bible historiale by Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), 1400-1425
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 160, fol. 9
The Fall of Man
from Bible historiale by Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), 1350-1375
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 161, fol. 9v























Bertram of Minden, The Fall of Man
German, 1379
Hamburg, Hauptkirche Sankt Petri


The Fall of Man
Bible historiale by Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), Beginning of 15th Century
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 9, fol. 9

























Jacob Tempting Esau, Satan Tempting Christ, Temptation of Adam and Eve
Page from a Biblia pauperum
German, 1450-1465
Cleveland, Museum of Art
Evrard d'Espinques and Collaborators, The Fall of Man
from Queste del saint graal
French (Ahun), c. 1470
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 116, fol. 657v
Hugo van der Goes, The Fall of Man
Belgian, c. 1479
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
In this charming painting by van der Goes, 
the serpent is shown as a creature with four legs, 
something that is implied in the Scripture, 
but frequently overlooked by artists.


The Fall of Man
from Speculum animae in Catalan
Spanish (Valencia), End of the 15th C
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Espagnol 544, fol. 4v
The Fall of Man
from a Book of Hours
French (Paris), 1495-1505
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M197, fol.17v




























Hans Memling, The Fall of Man
German, c. 1485
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
Anonymous, The Fall of Man
Dutch, 16th Century
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.



























Albrecht Duerer, The Fall of Man (drawing)
German, 1504
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
Albrecht Durer, The Fall of  Man (engraving)
German, 1504
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art






















Raphael,  The Fall of Man
Italian, 1509-1511
Vatican, Apostolic Palace, Stanza della Segnatura ceiling

Michelangelo, The Fall of Man and the Expulsion from Eden
Italian, 1508-1512
Vatican, Sistine Chapel

The almost simultaneous visions of Dürer and Raphael and Michelangelo would prove to be normative for the succeeding centuries, right up to the end of the nineteenth century.  From Dürer, some artists will take the side by side stance of the figures, from Raphael they will take the gesture of reaching up to the tree and from Michelangelo they will take the spiraling posture.

Hans Baldung Grien, The Fall of Man
German, c. 1510-1520
Florence, Galleria degli uffizi
Jan Gossaert, The Fall of Man
Flemish, c. 1510
Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza


























Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Fall of Man
German, 1526
London, Courtauld Gallery

Anonymous, The Fall of Man
Flemish, c. 1530
Berlin, Jagdschloss Grunewald


























Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Fall of Man
German, c. 1537
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum

Lucas Cranach Younger, The Fall of Man
German, 1549
Houston, Museum of Fine Arts


























Michiel Coxie, The Fall of Man
Belgian, c. 1540
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum
Titian, The Fall of Man
Italian, c. 1550
Madrid, Museo del Prado

























Tintoretto, The Fall of Man
Italian, 1551-1552
Venice, Gallerie dell'Accademia
Michiel Coxie, The Fall of Man
Belgian, c. 1570
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
Tintoretto, The Fall of Man
Italian, 1577-1578
Venice, Scuola Grande di San Rocco



































All of these elements combine in the early Baroque period into a gesture of offering, frequently standing, which may come from either Adam or Eve, and which adds a hint of sensuality that was not present in earlier periods.

Santi di Tito, The Fall of Man
Italian, 1580-1603
Florence, Museo di Casa Martelli
Jan van der Straet, The Fall of Man
Belgian, 1585-1587
Florence, Palazzo Della Gherardesca, Chapel































Hendrick Goltzius, The Fall of Man
 Dutch, c. 1600
Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle



Studio of Frans Francken II, The Fall of Man
The Sudbury Cabinet
Belgian, c. 1600-1642
Derbyshire UK, Sudbury Hall

























Peter Paul Rubens with Jan Breughel I, The Fall of Man (Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden)
Flemish, c. 1615
The Hague, Mauritshaus Museum
Hendrick Goltius, The Fall of Man
Flemish, 1616
Washington, National Gallery of Art
Jacob Savery II, The Fall of Man
Dutch, c. 1630
Private Collection
Izaac van Oosten, The Fall of Man
Dutch, 1640-1650
Private Collection
Jacob Jordaens, The Fall of Man
Belgian, c. 1640
Budapest, Szépmûvészeti Múzeum
Jacopo Amigoni, The Fall of Man
Italian, 1728
Ottobeuren, Ottobeuren Abbey, Chapel of St. Benedict

James Barry, The Fall of Man
Irish, 1767-1770
Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland


























Peter Wenzel, The Fall of Man
German, c. 1820-1830
Vatican, Pinacoteca
Edward Burne-Jones, The Fall of Man
Design for Stained Glass Window
English, 1870-1890
London, Victoria and Albert Museum
Hans Thoma, The Fall of Man
German, 1897
St. Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum


























Othon Friesz, The Fall of Man
French, c. 1910
St. Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum
Max Beckmann, The Fall of Man
German, 1917
Berlin, Nationalgalerie der Staatliche Museen zu Berlin


























Occasionally, we are shown the moment when they recognize their changed condition, when they recognize that they are naked, no longer the happy, innocent animals they were.  They are indeed now “like gods who know what is good and what is evil”.  They suddenly are us, with the sickening awareness of what our actions have really done.
Jean Bondol, Adam Realizes What He Has Done
from Bible historiale completee by Guiard des Moulilns
French (Paris), c. 1371-1372
The Hague, Museum Meermano
MS MMW 10 B 23, fol. 10r

Henry Keller, The Fall of Man
American, c. 1909-1912
Cleveland, Museum of Art

























Their example has been followed millions of times as humans have grasped the tempting fruit, whatever that fruit may represent, be it money or glory or pride or sex or power over others, whatever it is that tempts us with the promise that “you will be like gods”.  The result of all that grasping has usually been to discover, as they did, that the fruit has left a very bitter aftertaste.

Each year Lent offers us a chance to assess our grasping over the last year or over our whole lives, a chance to repent the choices that seemed so tempting and proved so bitter and a chance to repair some of the damage we have done along the way.  


© M. Duffy, 2017

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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