The Fall of Man (The Fall and Expulsion from Garden of Eden or Adam and Eve)

Keywords: FallManFallExpulsionGardenEdenAdamEve

Work Overview

The Fall of Man (The Fall and Expulsion from Garden of Eden; Adam and Eve)
Fresco, 280 x 570 cm
Cappella Sistina, Vatican

Eve takes the apple from the snake, who has told her that after eating the fruit she will be as God, knowing good and evil. The moment is known as the Fall.

The fresco is part of Michelangelo's decoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

The sixth scene in the chronological order of the narrative, The Fall and Expulsion from Garden of Eden, is depicted in the large field of the vault of the second bay, between the triangular spandrels.

A bold and momentous step towards greater clarity was taken with the Fall of Adam and the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden. It has been noted that the composition's three pilasters, the fallen pair to the left, the pair expelled from Paradise to the right, and the anthropomorphized tree of knowledge with the female tempter in the centre (the Tree of Life before the Fall), join arms at the top to form the letter M in uncial script. Was this intended to be Michelangelo's signature? To the left, the profusion of the Garden of Eden is indicated by a few details, but even among these a barren stump thrusts up its branches beside the archetypal female. To the right, total desolation surrounds the human couple.

The rhythm of the whole composition flows from left to right. Eve grasps the apple boldly, Adam greedily, but in misfortune he seems greater than the woman. He knows that through his fall God, who was near to him, has become inaccessible and remote. He almost disdains the garden of which he feels no longer worthy. In spite of rocks and the barren tree stump, Eden - the term signifies bliss - is too voluptuous and full of delight; the bodies are too plump and smooth, the foliage above their heads is almost too luxuriant. It is as though Michelangelo meant to say: 'This is not yet the truth; that will have to be won in the desert of our destiny.' It is, moreover, striking that the cherub with the raised sword pointing the way out, although in flight and strongly foreshortened, appears a twin of the tempter and, like her, issues from the tree (the Tree of Life; the Cabalistic Sephiroth). Good and Evil have divided and become a dual power. This idea, like nearly every fresco on the vault of the Sistine, is full of mysteries which, we now realize, have their parallels in artistic and structural mysteries. Everything connects in Michelangelo's designs. In spite of their intellectual content, in spite of his humbly self taught knowledge, he never became literary; nor did he think in logical categories or in terms of dialectic, but visually and in symbols.

When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden they were free to do whatever they wished except eat the fruit of this tree. Satan came to them disguised as a snake and tempted them into eating the fruit.

As a punishment, Adam and Eve were no longer welcome to stay in the Garden of Eden and were cast out by an angel. After eating from the tree of knowledge, Adam and Eve became aware of right versus wrong. Eve covers her bosom as she is cast from the Garden of Eden as she has become aware of her nudity. This scene depicts the original sin.

The Fall of Man was painted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel among other visual representations of biblical stories from the Old Testament. He painted the Sistine Chapel from 1508-1512.

Michelangelo was originally commissioned by Pope Julius II to paint a much more modest portion of the church, but Michelangelo created a counter proposal and was granted a free hand to paint what he wished.

Michelangelo's aversion to painting made him reluctant to accept the commission in the first place. In the end, the Sistine Chapel is one of his most well known and appreciated works.

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564) is one of the most venerated artists of the Renaissance period. Unlike many artists who only became appreciated after death, Michelangelo's work was appreciated in his time.

He is the first Western artist to have a biography published about him while he was still alive. His contemporaries include Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) and Raphael (1483-1520).

The Renaissance style of art moved away from the Medieval penchant for depicting religious figures as other worldly. Artists began to incorporate perspective into their compositions, which made Christian religious figures appear tangible for the first time in art history.

People began to explore themselves as individuals and the field of science began to expand rapidly with this renewed interest in their earthly existence. The High Renaissance refers to a short thirty year period of Italian artistic production, under which The Fall of Man was produced.

This period is marked primarily by grandiose scales, complex compositions, and a renewed interest in classical antiquity.

The Temptation and Expulsion had always been depicted separately before. Michelangelo has united them with the gigantic tree that almost fills the scene from side to side, and reflects the shape of the Rovere tree in the reliefs adorning the barrier below. In one overarching shape the crime leads to its punishment. The tempting Satan and the avenging angel function as branches. Recalling Joel's prophecy of the destruction of vine and fig tree, the stump of a withered vine is to be seen behind Eve, and the Tree of Knowledge bears fig leaves and figs, both having strong sexual significance. On the right its shape is continued by the angel's arm and sword and by the Rovere leaves and acorns which invade the scene from the cornucopia held by the youth just outside. The tree that challenges heaven is a fig tree when it represents the Tree of Knowledge which brought mankind to destruction, an oak when it symbolizes the Tree of Life and the punishment of the guilty. 

The putto behind Isaiah directs his attention to the Fall of Man. Isaiah had sung of the vineyard of the beloved that brought forth only wild grapes; the Lord devastated it and broke down the fence of stones. To St.Jerome the beloved signified Israel, the vineyard Christ. The vineyard was sacrificed, the Old Law destroyed. The stones remain in Michelangelo's background, and the dead branches suggest the Cross, as in the Creation of Eve. To reinforce the connection between Eve and the vineyard, Michelangelo has given her the pose of the woman in The Deluge who crouches over the wine keg.

The fall of man, or the fall, is a term used in Christianity to describe the transition of the first man and woman from a state of innocent obedience to God to a state of guilty disobedience. Although not named in the Bible, the doctrine of the fall comes from a biblical interpretation of Genesis chapter 3. At first, Adam and Eve lived with God in the Garden of Eden, but the serpent tempted them into eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which God had forbidden. After doing so, they became ashamed of their nakedness and God expelled them from the Garden to prevent them from eating from the tree of life and becoming immortal.

For many Christian denominations, the doctrine of the fall is closely related to that of original sin. They believe that the fall brought sin into the world, corrupting the entire natural world, including human nature, causing all humans to be born into original sin, a state from which they cannot attain eternal life without the grace of God. The Eastern Orthodox Church accepts the concept of the fall but rejects the idea that the guilt of original sin is passed down through generations, based in part on the passage Ezekiel 18:20 that says a son is not guilty of the sins of his father. Calvinist Protestants believe that Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice for the elect, so they may be redeemed from their sin. Judaism does not have a concept of "the fall" or "original sin" and has varying other interpretations of the Eden narrative. Lapsarianism, the logical order of God's decrees in relation to the Fall, is the distinction, by some Calvinists, as being supralapsarian (antelapsarian, pre-lapsarian or prelapsarian, before the Fall) or infralapsarian (sublapsarian, postlapsarian, after the Fall).

The story of the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man represents a tradition among the Abrahamic peoples, with a presentation more or less symbolical of certain moral and religious truths.