Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

The Garden of Eden

Folio 25v

As this subject did not usually figure in a Book of Hours, this miniature, so original in conception, composition, and execution, was not planned for the Très Riches Heures. It is an inset page, painted separately and added to the manuscript later.
Its place here just before the Annunciation was probably determined by the medieval belief that the fall of Adam had brought about the coming of the Messiah; in the words of Emile Male, "a new Adam come to erase the sin of the old one" (L'art religieux du XIIIe siècle en France, p. 223).
In an unusual yet harmonious arrangement, this painting presents four stages in the fall of Adam and Eve. On the left, Eve reaches toward the forbidden tree to take the apple from the hand of the serpent who has assumed the upper part of a female body to become more enticing.
Delightedly she brings the fruit to Adam who, half-kneeling in the grass amid the flowers, turns to her with a lovely movement of his body. After eating the forbidden fruit "they perceived themselves to be naked" (Genesis III: 7), and we see God telling them of the punishment for their disobedience.
The sequence ends on the right, where a flaming angel drives Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. In the center a fountain of delicate openwork separates the scenes of punishment from the first two, which the Limbourgs endowed with a particular grace and poetry inspired by the feelings of innocence, ease, and freedom usually associated with paradise.
The Limbourgs painted Eve after the type of female fashionable at the time, with a high bosom, thin waist, and slightly protruding stomach. Her elegant slenderness was already evident in the brothers' Belles Heures, in the figure of Saint Catherine, but here it has firmer, more determined brush strokes and a purer contour.
Adam's kneeling body has the nobility of a classical statue; as Paul Durrieu pointed out, "his pose presents many simi- larities with the School of Pergamon, of which an example is presently in the museum in Aix-en-Provence Les très riches heures de Jean de France duc de Berry, pp. 38-39).
Within the miniature's general harmony of colors, the bodies of Adam and Eve contrast with the background of greenery, and the vivid blue robe of the Lord stands out against the gold of the fountain and of the gates of paradise.

small image (25KB) --- large image (236KB) --- Upper center detail (large) (136KB) --- The Temptation (large) (256KB) --- The Punishment (large) (249KB)

Next folio --- Previous folio --- Return to index