'The Fall of Man'

'The Fall of Man'
Mariotto Albertinelli: "Creation and Fall of Man" (1490's), Courtauld Gallery, London.

It’s called The Fall of Man, and in famous paintings it's the snake’s fault and it’s Eve’s fault: “Her rash hand in evil hour…” Has there ever been a more popular subject in art history?

The painting below is by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel ceiling (between 1508-1512) - more here - but Lucas Cranach the Elder, who was associated with Protestant reformers like Martin Luther (1526), Rubens, a Catholic, when he was only 20 (in 1597) and William Blake (circa 1808) all tried their hand at it.

It is Eve's role that continues to fascinate anyone interested in art history. Consider these three images of Eve, the first by van Eyck (between 1426 and 1432), the second by Albrecht Dürer (in 1507) and the last by Lucas Cranach the Elder (in 1528).

van Eyck Eve
Albrecht Durer Eve
Lucas Cranach Eve

Then compare them to this explicitly erotic vision by Hans Baldung Grien from 1511, where Adam doesn't seem that interested in the apple.


The explicit erotic content in Renaissance paintings, especially in Germany, suggests that Church teachings were already eroding and allowing sex without sin back into the interpretations of Genesis and Exodus. If Eden was the womb and the river out of Eden was the umbilical cord, and Exodus was the journey after leaving the womb, crossing the Red Sea, with its hint of blood, then it was hard to escape the idea that women were the life force itself, and that this was not sinful at all. More here.

Below is Rembrandt's sly take on the subject, an etching from 1638 which shows Adam grabbing the apple away from a chubby Eve. Notice the elephant? That is Hansken, a famous elephant of the time, whom Rembrandt sketched several times. This etching, one of several, is in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.


But it all ends here...