Images of Creation & Fall

 1. Eagle Nebula, Hubble Telescope

Let's explore some images of Creation and the Sacred Garden from the Western tradition of art, science, and scripture. Let the images and texts speak to your spiritual imagination as we honor the wonder of creation and the wonder of artists who express gratitude for the Gift.

2. Baptistry wall mural, Duomo, Padua, Italy, 15th C.
Interpret the signs and symbols in the circle.

3. Jacobo Torriti, mural on Church wall, Italy

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. The Spirit of God was moving over the waters. And God said, Let there be Light! And there was light. And God saw that the light was Good." (Hebrew Bible)

"When there was neither Being nor Not-Being, no sky, no heaven, nor what is beyond, what did it encompass? Where? In whose protection? What was this ocean of the deep unfathomable? Neither death nor immortality was there then, no sign of light or darkness. Only the One, who breathed, by its own power, and became Desire, first seed of mind." (India, The Rig Veda)

LINK to 'Creation Stories'

4. Raphael, murals on Vatican wall, Stanza della-Segnatura, 1512
Aristotle's 'Prime Mover' (Primum Mobile) Why is a Greek philosopher's "proof of God" on the walls of Pope Julius's study? Why is the creator Spirit a woman?

“I was set up from everlasting, 
from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
When there were no depths, I was brought forth; 
when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled, 
before the hills was I brought forth...
When he prepared the heavens, I was there: 
when he set a compass upon the face of the deep:
When he established the clouds above: 
when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:
When he gave to the sea his decree, 
that the waters should not pass his commandment: 
when he appointed the foundations of the earth:
Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: 
and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always  before him.  
(Proverbs 8, where God's Wisdom, Hochmah, speaks as a woman)

5. Adam-Ondi-Ahman, Missouri. According to J.S. this is where the Garden of Eden was. Can you guess who J.S. is?

6. 3rd Century wall mural, Rome

"When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground- the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." (Hebrew Bible, 2)

In what way are these figures still influenced by pre-Christian Greek art? In what way do they show Christian influence?

7. Jean Fouquet, illuminated French Bible, 13th C.
What is the message about creation in this painting?

8. Another Medieval manuscript painting for you to interpret. Look carefully at the details and comment, especially note the tree. If one woman is Eve, who is the other and why is she there?

"Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

 9. Identify this painting and comment on it. Who's the artist?

 10. Where is this painting? What is the building used for?

11. Adam, by Michaelangelo, Sistene Chapel, Vatican City 1509-1512

12. Images of the Cosmos from Nasa's Hubble Telescope

"I am a scientist: I trace the lines that come from God."
(Einstein, letter to Gandhi)

"The cosmic religious experience is the strongest and the noblest driving force behind scientific research." (Einstein)

"The most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being." (Isaac Newton)

"All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force... We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter." (Max Planck)

"God forever does geometry." (Plato, according to Plutarch).

Link to 'Physics & Creation: Quotes from the Great Physicists


13. Expulsion from the Garden: interpret the images & persons in the painting. What is the significance of the human figures in relation to the mandala of creation, as compared with previous paintings of this circle?

14. Memling, 16th C. Flemish

15. William Blake with Lucifer above, 19th C. English poet and engraver who did not believe in Original Sin. Compare and contrast pictures 14 and 15.

16. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, 14th C. Comment on the Serpent. 

15. 'Nakedness of Adam,' Falk. This 20th Century artist is more interested in portraying the emotional state of Adam than presenting a literal interpretation of the story. What does this picture say about Adam's condition after the fall? Who are the figures beside him? Why does the painter use the colors he does?

18. Gaugin, 'Eve', 20th C. This great French painter interprets the emotional condition of Eve after the Fall.

19. Massacio, 'Expulsion from the Garden,' 15th C

Massacio's early Renaissance painting, about 1425 CE, was cleaned and restored to its original vibrancy in the 1980's. Massacio was one of the earliest European artists to recover the Classical tradition of the nude human body in motion, and in anatomical correctness. When historians cleaned the outer film of dirt away, they discovered that the original was quite different than the version we had come to know. During the more Puritanical age of the Reformation, three centuries after Massacio, leaves were placed over the figures' original sexuality. Now the painting is restored not only to its original color, but its original nakedness. What does this story from the history of art tell us about Western culture's changing attitudes toward sexuality?