Thursday, January 14, 2010

Adam and Eve through the millenia

While I was finding images of the Three Graces, I also looked at images of Adam and Eve.  I found it fascinating to see how the depictions changed over time.  Most of the paintings were from the 1500's, though I was also able to find many from the 21st century as well.  I'm curious how many of those will become as famous as Durer's and Raphael's, etc.  As I was going through the paintings, I paid attention to how the depictions of women's and men's bodies both shifted as well as the relationship between Adam and Eve.  In some of the paintings, they don't seem to have anything to do with each other.  In others, it is all about the couple and their relationship - this seems to be more the case in contemporary paintings than in those of the 16th century.

This first image is from 1100 and was done by Wiligelmo.  I don't know anything at all about the artist.  In this one, it appears that Eve is being tempted, Adam is eating the apple, and they're already using the fig leaf - maybe it was easier to carve one picture with three parts of the story in it than 3 separate ones?! 

1400 or so, Hans Memling, Adam and Eve
Notice that both of them have apples in this depiction.  Eve has a very narrow chest, especially as compared to her hips.

The era I found most of the images from was the 1500's.  Perhaps this is because Europe was moving out of the Dark Ages, into the Renaissance.  The arts were beginning to flourish more.  It was a good subject matter since it was Christian and would please the clerics who had a great deal of power at the time.  And it was an opportunity to paint nudes.  (I'm not an art historian, so I'm just guessing about these possibilities...)

1424-5, Masolino, The Temptation of Adam
Interesting woman's head on the serpent.

1427, Masaccio, The Expulsion from Paradise
An exploration of a different aspect of the story.  The grief is palpable on their faces, and their shame is evident as they attempt to cover themselves.  Interesting that there is a structural gate to the garden, and the angel has a sword - other images don't have such contemporary elements in them.
1450, Castagno, Eve
This is one of my favorite images of Eve.  She looks so strong and bold and clear.  No shame or worry from her!  She seems to have taken on her banishment without a shred of worry!

 1470, Hugo van der Goes, The Fall of Adam
This is one of the most interesting images of the serpent I found.  Remember he wasn't cursed to slide on his belly until AFTER they were all found out, so perhaps this is how he looked before that incident - human head and expressions and all!  I notice that Eve's belly is distended - is she pregnant already before being cursed to have to suffer the pains of childbirth?

1507, Albrecht Durer, Adam and Eve
Durer also did an etching of Adam and Eve.  I think Adam looks very young in this picture.  They don't look too pained by their punishment.  I get a sense of youth and almost frivolity from it.  Light.  Breezy.  Pretty people.

1500, Albrecht Durer, Adam and Eve
This is his etching of the same subject matter.  Adam and Eve look so different in this, it's hard to reconcile that it's by the same artist.  (Maybe I have the one above wrong.)  Adam's musculature is quite defined.  Eve is not one of today's super-skinny models.

1508-12, Michelangelo, The Fall of Man and the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden
From comparing these different paintings, I can see why Michaelangelo is considered one of the best painters ever.  His colors are beautiufl.  His forms are gorgeously painted.  The emotions he evokes are clear and real looking.  The gestures of the models are beautiful.  The bodies are gorgeously muscular.  I've heard that Michaelangelo, who was gay, used only male models, so his women tended to look like men as well.  I can see that on Eve on the left.  Her back muscles look very masculine to me, and her breasts look almost more like pecs than breasts.  The sepent is more of a human being than snake - and much more appealing than the other human-faced one above!

1509-11, Raphael, Adam and Eve (ceiling panel)
This was being done at the same time as Michaelangelo was painting the Sistene Chapel (where the previous picture can be found).  The two artists were rivals, competing for commissions from the pope and other wealthy patrons.
These figures have quite a different feel than the previous ones.  The musculature is very different.  Eve looks more like a woman than a body builder.  The serpent is again human-like.

1517 Hans Holbein, Adam and Eve
I love Adam in this one!  He could be straight out of a 70's druggie film.  His attitude is so casual about the whole thing.  Fascinating!

1525, Jan Gossaert, Adam and Eve in Paradise
There's a lot of motion in this painting.  Adam looks like he's leading her someplace.

Both of these are by Lucas Cranach, the top one from 1528, the bottom from 1533.  It looks like he used the same models for both, and the woman is in almost exactly the same position.  The man's arms are different, and the colors are quite different (though I don't know how much of that is due to the color reproduction.)  I wonder why he did two which were so similar?  Commissions?

1535, Albrecht Altdorfer, The Fall of Man
This is the same title as Michaelangelo's.  This one is so much cruder! 

1550, Titian, Adam and Eve
This one has a more contemporary feel to me - maybe it's the colors.  I can't tell if he's trying to push her away from taking the apple from the cherub-like serpent, or if he's touching her breast.  Again, they're already covered by foilage even though they apparently haven't eaten the apple yet.

1598, Rubens, Adam and Eve
I find these figures to be exquisitely painted.  Rubens is the one people are talking about when they say a woman's figure is "Rubenesque."  It usually means she has hips and breasts and looks like a normal woman.  Those were the days when women were valued for having some meat on their bones!  I don't find this woman to be overly plump at all - no more so than any of the other Eves particularly.

When I put the pictures in chronological order, I was fascinated to find that the three pictures I could find from the 17th century were all pastoral scenes, landscapes almost.  In two of them, it's difficult to find them even!  Such a contrast to the 16th century pictures above where the figures dominate completely.  I wonder what happened to cause that shift?

1615, Jan Bruegel the Elder, Adam and Eve in the Garden

 1660-4, Nicolas Poussin, The Spring. Adam and Eve in Paradise

1623, Domenichino, Adam and Eve
It looks to me like Adam is casting some blame here!  And God looks pretty darned angry!  Those little angels in the middle look like the ones that have become famous recently as stickers, etc.  Note the modern-looking animals.

1850,Adam and Eve Expelled, Paul Gustave Dore
One of the only 19th century depictions of Adam and Eve I found.  A very Romantic image full of hellfire nad damnation.  Note that Adam and Eve have on a lot of clothing - they're not exactly nude here.  Perhaps this had to do with the rising Victorian sensibility?

1885-96, Victor Vasnetsov, The Bliss of Paradise
Again, no nudity to speak of.  A more Art Nouveau rendering, very decorative.  Focused on the time before they ate the apple.  A completely different color pallette than in the ones from the 16th century.

1909, Suzanne Valadon, Adam and Eve
When I first saw this, I thought it was by Paul Gauguin, but I was mistaken.  It's by Suzanne Valadon, the first woman whose work is represented here.  This couple is painted in a much flatter, less representational style.  His genitals are covered.  Hers aren't.  It looks like he's trying to keep her from taking the apple, but he isn't even looking in that direction.  She looks quite independent and carefree.  I get more the sense of two individuals in this picture than in some of the others.  Even though they're touching, they don't seem very connected.  The woman's shape seems more modern.

 1917-18, Gustav Klimt,  Adam and Eve
Klimt, an extremely decorative Jugendstil artist from Austria, created a whole different story about Adam and Eve.  There's no apple.  No temptation.  No shame.  No banishment. This one is about the relationship between the two who are clearly lovers.  I can imagine that this caused some scandal for churchgoers when he put it on display.

 1932, Adam and Eve, Tamara de Lempicka, 1932
Another painting by a woman.  Although labeled Adam and Eve, it also doesn't seem to have too much to do with the Garden and banishment and shame.  She is holding an apple, so I guess that's the reference there.  The setting is an urban city - not exactly the Garden of Eden.  Perhaps this is what has come from the banishment.  Looks like they're enjoying themselves. 

1998, Botero, 1483 colon Adam and Eve 
Finally a couple that's a different size!  Interesting depiction in that it's from the rear rather than from the front, and look who's reaching for the apple this time!

2002, Susan Singer, Adam and Eve Revisited.
This is a collage I made when I was working on my 12 Naked Men series.  I found the picture of the snake in National Geographic and combined it with a photo I took of one of my friends and a copy of a portrait I did of myself. 

2006, Adam and Eve, Scott Brooks 
I found this picture on the internet, but I don't know anything about this artist.  I love it that the couple is biracial, and I lvoe his cocky stanch (pardon the pun!) and her worried look.  He is standing there, not hiding a thing, while she looks completely uptight.  The apple hasn't been touched yet, but the serpent is waiting to do this thing.  It makes for an interesting story...

2007, Adam and Eve in the Creation Museum, Monica Lam 
This is a sculpture from the Creation Museum where people can go view dioramas of scenes from the Bible and dinosaurs roaming the earth with humans.  It's interesting to me that there is no nudity there - genitals are covered by lily pads and water, breasts by hair.  She seems to be showing young women how to just say no - shyly but clearly.  That's pretty tricky - combining teaching abstinence with Adam and Eve!

2007,Inigo Jose Sinson, Adam and Eve
I'm not sure exactly what the message is supposed to be here, but I found the image interesting, so I thought I'd include it.

I don't know who the artist is for this painting unfortunately.  Their bodies seem to have reached the skinny model stage, both the man and woman.

Again, I don't know who the artist is for this.  It looks like one of the images from the 15th century, but notice those are pot leaves, not fig leaves covering them, and I do believe they're smoking joints! 

2009, Adam and Eve Adult Costume, celebrate express
And just in case you've been so inspired by this series of pictures that you want to dress like Adam and Eve for your next costume party, here's some inspiration for you!

So.......  as you can see, there have been many, many depictions of Adam and Eve over the centuries, and artists today are continuing to explore the topic.  I found it interesting to look at the way artists showed the female and male bodies - some seemed to be idealized, like Michaelangelo's.  Others weren't.  It seems like most were.  Some were extremely emotional renderings.  In others, the pair stood by with nary an expression on their faces.  After the 16th century, the way of painting the scene changed dramatically, and in the 17th century, it was difficult to even find the couple in the landscape!  In the 20th and 21st centuries, it seems as if the depictions of Adam and Eve have become more about the sensual relationship between the two, or the story has been parodied to make a different point.

I find it fascinating to discover the way the same story has been handled down through the centuries as tastes and values and morals have changed.  Some other time, I plan to trace the way Venus has been pictured.  Until then, have a great day!


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