Nowhere is the purpose of the historiated capital clearer than at Notre Dame du Port in Clermont-Ferrand. The collection of sculptures there is extraordinarily rich and full of detailed recounting of scripture and stories from the Bible. The use of foliage to support the imagery alone deserves an extended study of its own. Today’s post is just an introduction, using two faces of a capital depicting the Garden of Eden.
The first image shows Eve tempting Adam with the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, presented to her by the serpent twining on the branch to the left. The fruit is a pineapple of some sort, not the apple often shown. The nakedness of Adam and Eve is “naturally” covered with large leaves covering their genitalia. Notice Eve’s braided hair.
The second face of the capital shows the punishment of the transgressors, with the Angel seizing Adam by his beard while his other hand holds the tree. Eve has collapsed at the foot of Adam, representing the second of two punishments for her role in the Fall.
“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Genesis 3:16 (King James Version).
Eve is not only subordinated to Adam in this sculpture, but she has undone her hair in anguish and despair.
And finally, both Adam and Eve are consciously using the leaves of the tree to cover their nakedness, the awareness of which was means by which God recognized their transgression.
This is part of a series of posts featuring an amuse-bouche, a bite-sized appetizer to whet the appetite of diners. Each of these will explore a single interesting feature of medieval architecture or sculpture. To see other amuse-bouches, follow this link.