Indiana University Bloomington

Adam, Eve & Sin: Earth’s Original Triad

Christian Smith, chemistry

Written for COLL-C103: Word Hard, Pray Hard

Instructor: Prof. Sonia Velazquez


The most foundational representation of the sins of mankind, from the perspective of Christianity is expressed through the painting “Adam and Eve,” by Peter Paul Rubens. This work was created in 1629 and accurately expresses earth’s sinful triad; man, woman and temptation, a pattern of relationship as old as time.

Adam, Eve and Satan are all touching one-another; hand to shoulder to hand, they are all connected. This touch from being to being expresses an intimate relationship between the three. The devil, youthful and intriguing to Adam and Eve remains at rest. The demeanor of Satan is instilling no emotion of fear to the couple. The devil, represented as an infant, symbolizes the allure of a pure and trustworthy creature, yet he creeps from atop the tree and empties himself out from the dark shadows of the dark greens and browns inversely representing his outer appearance.

Contrast to his present form, the infant has a protruding tail, which wraps around the tree, black and twiddled expressing corrupt will and awakeness; he is active and cunning. Adam and Eve are opposite the The Devil, and have been enhanced with bright light. Rubens uses this bright light to highlight their inquisitive facial expressions. This refraction of light and comparative substance emphasizes that the couple is to be seen as good, while The Devil in his dark coloration is to be seen as evil.  It seems that Rubens uses the contrast of shadows and the likeliness of an infant to show the deceit of Satan, allowing the viewer to understand the predicament of a false trust that Adam and Eve had underwent.

In the center of the painting lies a long green frond which covers a part of Eve’s body . This visual representation of the covering frond is expressing Eve’s obtainment of knowledge; she is now a knowing woman. Ruben uses this plant to symbolize her growing knowledge. In the book of Genesis, Eve is first to be fooled by the trickery of the devil, and she is first to eat from the tree of knowledge. Eve is only partly hidden by the plant in the painting, in that she is only slightly touching the fruit(gaining knowledge). The book of genesis states that when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge they knew then of their nakedness. Adam, in the painting is not yet touching the fruit, but instead curious to Eve’s actions. Rubens portrays Adam’s lack of knowledge by painting him as completely nude.

Adam and Eve are placed in focus in the center of the painting. They are not muscular, they are not showing expression of fatigue, Adam and Eve in rest, their light porcelain features are spotlighted and express a laborless lifestyle. There is little negative space in the Garden of Eden, this view of completeness painted by Rubens introduces the idea that Adam and Eve have everything they need. The book of Genesis states that Adam and Eve would live bountifully on the land, free of toil and hard labor as long as they obeyed the word of God. Rubens paints Adam and Eve in such a laxed demeanor to emphasize the idea that they have yet to be punished for their previous sin. Adam and Eve have not yet been punished for their knowledge, and have not yet been found by God and told to till the Earth by the sweat of their brow. Rubens emphasizes on the time period before mankind’s punishment has occurred. Rubens visually produces the moment of pure tranquility of mankind. The colors of pastel blues and deep greens and distant yellows shows that perfect peace between man and nature is present. This viewpoint allows for the aspect of time to be told through the painting, the story of Adam and Eve is not yet complete. Adam, Eve and Satan are not the only beings in the painting. Many of God’s creations are introduced in the forefront and background of the piece. Although there is an abundance of God’s creations in the painting, man is the only creation that seems to be easily tempted. Man is tempted with or without knowledge, the painting expresses this through the portrayal of their ignorance to the rest of God’s creations. Perched in the tree is a bird, another creation, yet the bird does not desire to pester with the devil or eat from the tree of knowledge, but man is different; he is inquisitive and disobedient.

This variance of God’s creations are visually represented by Rubens as he has painted a large mountain in the background symbolizing the vastness of God’s creation, while also placing a small colored bird in the foreground, showing the diversity of creation. To further express the diverse nature of God’s creations, Rubens paints an abundance of grasses, trees and flowering plants. The plant life is colored in greens, browns, reds and yellows of all shades illuminating the background of the painting in its entirety.

In conclusion, Peter Paul Rubens accurately depicts the creation story through his painting “Adam and Eve.” Using contrasts in color throughout the painting, the relationship between Satan and man is expressed. The contrast in Satan’s outer appearance shows his deceitful nature, which is accurately in line with the book of Genesis. Rubens accurately depicts the nature of creation, painting a multitude of diverse wildlife across the visual horizon. Rubens Introduces Adam and Eve as porcelain like beings, their purity is viewed and acknowledged, yet able to be easily cracked. Man was once pure, a sinless human being, symbolizing their likeness to God, as did so the book of Genesis.

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