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Eve, the Serpent, and Death - Formal Analysis

By Hyperi0n8 Oct 17, 2014 657 Words
The painting “Eve, the Serpent, and Death” by Hans Baldung is a dark representation of the classic Bible story of Adam and Eve from the book of Genesis. Baldung has clearly based most of the painting on themes from the Bible story. “And the Lord God commanded the man, you are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” from this quote you can see where the “death” aspect in the title comes from, as the male character (Adam) is in a state of decomposition, with his skin falling off of his body, muscle tissue and bare bones exposed. He appears to be bound to the tree by the serpent, who also has its mouth clenched on his arm. Grasping an apple in his hand, it implies he has eaten an apple from the tree, and has begun to die.

When first glancing at the painting, most of the attention is grabbed by the fair composition of the character that is “Eve”. She appears to be glowing in contrast to the darkness of rest of the painting. It appears as though the light source is shining from beyond the right side of the painting, as Eve, part of the tree in the foreground, and the visible parts of “death”, or “Adam” are illuminated. The background, however is shrouded with darker colours, only few shapes and lines are visible giving the representation of dense shrubbery occupying the background. There is some shading used on Eve’s body parts, but not as dramatic as the shading of the tree, which almost has a half-dark, half-light appearance.

The organization of the painting is mainly constructed with use of long vertical lines, which creates a dominant foreground that uses dark, neutral colours. In the foreground you see the image of Eve, who is made up of deep curvy lines to demonstrate the body of a naked woman in a standing pose, one leg in front of the other. The tall curvy lines clearly defining the shapes of the legs, torso, and arms. Standing next Eve is the trunk of the famous “forbidden” tree from the story of Adam and Eve. It is composed of long lines with varying points of curvature, giving the tree a twisted appearance. Running up and down the exterior of this tree, are long lines going in erratic directions, connecting with each other making up the bark of the tree. These lines help give the tree an image of texture and movement, by repeating the composition of the bark. The lengthy, curvy, horizontal lines used for the body of the serpent, which is wrapped around the tree, help accentuate the twisted shape of the tree. There are tall, vertical lines that are used to form the appendages belonging to the figure of “Death” or “Adam”. These lines are used mainly for his visible arms and legs, which have deteriorated to the bone; the extended lines establishing the exterior of these appendages. His right leg, however appears to still be intact, but only the bottom half is visible. Many short lines also contribute to the structure of the painting. There is a series of closely grouped short, curved lines that constitute the muscle fibre of “Death” or “Adam”’s decaying flesh which is seen as ripped, and falling from his body. Manifesting at the bottom of the tree is a collection of small, curved lines that make up the trees roots. Arranged in a curling, twisted formation, the roots add to the tree’s wicked appearance.

As a whole, the painting is a real attention grabber, and it provokes deeper thought through the use of its extreme colour contrast and perplexing images. It is definitely a more disturbed imagining of “Adam and Eve” which accentuates the underlying dark side of bible stories.

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