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I recently traced my family tree all the way back to Adam, and to 4004 BCE – (see here) though several steps did appear to be a little dubious or mythical. However with the source being the Bible and the Qu’ran I am relaxed about that.
But it got me to thinking – how did Art portray Adam down the ages?
|Well one early attempt was this:|
The sculpted bronze Bernward Doors, they date from c1015 at Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany.
They were commissioned by Bishop Bernward and show relief images from the Bible. Scenes from the Book of Genesis are on the left door and scenes from the life of Jesus are on the right. An Ottonian Masterpiece, they are said to represent the oldest known monumental image cycle in German sculpture, and the oldest cycle of images cast in metal in Germany.
The image presents the story of Adam & Eve, rather then offering too much detail of the individuals.
The Creation of Adam
|Perhaps the most famous, is this fresco dating from 1511.|
Michelangelo painted nine Genesis pictures on the Sistine Chapel roof. Between them these featured some three hundred characters, but none quite captured the imaginatiom as much as the central work, with Adam reaching out his hand to receive the spark of life directly from God.
It is the fourth scene of the nine, but one of the last to be completed.
God is shown to be horizontally surrounded by angels, the first time God was presented in this attitude.
God’s arm circles an unidentified female, surmised as Eve awaiting incorporation.
|Our third painting is by Jacopo Tintoretto , a Venetian painter and dating to 1550. This is an oil and canvas history painting. |
Adam and Eve are depicted not in a landscape thrown into confusion by the hand of the Creator, but in a more serene, more human dimension.
In the leafy arbour the two nude figures moving around the trunk of the tree form the parallel diagonals of the composition.
The Temptation of Adam and Eve
The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise
|The fourth selection is from 1791 and the American Colonial Artist Benjamin White. It too is oil on canvas, but looks later into their tale.|
The Book of Genesis does not state how the first man and woman were expelled from Eden, but artists usually portray the Archangel Michael as the agent of the Lord’s wrath.
The sinners wear fur robes because God clothed them in ‘coats of skins’ so that they could stand unashamed in his presence. The serpent, now cursed among creatures, slithers away on its belly to eat dust. The sharp beam of light overhead refers to the ‘flaming sword’ in Genesis.
|And, to bring us right up to date, here is an image of Adam generated by an AI or artificial intelligence computer.|
It was prompted thus:
Produce an exquisitely detailed portrait painting of ADAM; standing in the Garden of Eden surrounded by flora and fauna;
Use these genres: Realism, Classical; Styles: Academic, Traditional;
Use these techniques: oil on canvas, Chiaroscuro, Tenebrism, fine detail, smooth brushwork;
Use this lighting: dramatic spotlight on Adam’s face and body, casting shadows;
Use these colours: Earth tones, muted greens, and browns;
Reflect these descriptive terms: Majestic, Powerful, Serene, Divine, Timeless;
Reference these artists: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Peter Paul Rubens.
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