Leonardo da Vinci
Artists as drivers of anatomical research in Renaissance Italy
With humanism in the Renaissance, and especially from the 15th
century in Italy, anatomical studies became increasingly important.
With the growing influence of the courts, which are eager for
cultural prestige, comes a social climate in which progressive
artistic research can take place. The position and possibilities of
the artist change significantly during this time.
Leonardo da Vinci, Francesco Melzi, ca. 1515-17, Royal Collection
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), child of his day, worked as an
armaments engineer, urban planner, architect, and astronomer at
Ludovico Sforza's court in Milan. He designed hydraulic systems,
equipment for textile manufacture, and warfare. Since the methods of
art and science were partly alike, these two disciplines were closer
than before or after.
Siege Defenses, Leonardo da Vinci, 1480-82, Biblioteca Ambrosiana,
The social influence shifted from the churches to the secular elite
of the cities and courts. For them, the research and display of
tangible reality were of power political importance. Growing trade
increases the rank of measurement and requires uniformity. But not
only goods are measured, but also the human body. The idea of space
and the positioning of the body in it is gaining attention.
The better availability of paper and other utensils went hand in
hand with a renewed interest in nature. Drawings - as drafts,
concepts, or ideas- showed the mind and genius of the artist, who,
according to the new understanding of the time, was no longer a mere
Taddeo Drawing after the Antique, Frederico Zuccaro, c. 1595, J.
Paul Getty Museum, New York (getty.edu)
ART AND ANATOMY
The artistic mastery of human physiognomy became a leitmotif,
anatomical efforts and aesthetic went hand in hand. Artists such as
Antonio Pollaiuolo (1429-1498), Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), or
Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) are the drivers of optical-empirical
research that finds expression in proportion theories, drawings, and
Battle of the Naked Men, Antonio Pollaiuolo, c. 1470-90,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (metmuseum.org)
Anthropometric studies show ideal anatomy that follows the laws of
geometric balance typical of the Renaissance. The Vitruvian man
f.e., which takes up the schematization by Vitruvius (Roman
architect, 1st century BC), serves as a template for proportions.
The human body here is the joint center of both a circle and a
square. The navel is the central point of the circle. The arm span
and the length from head to toe give the side length for the
square. This reflects a concept that found approval in Leonardo's
time through the philosophical movement of Neoplatonism. It suggests
that the human being is in the center of the world order.
Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci, 1492, Gallerie dell’ Accademia,
Leonardo's scientific studies were not of circumstantial importance
to him. He did not only conduct them in the service of aesthetic
development, but they constitute the core of his work, both as an
engineer and as an artist. Following the example of a Renaissance
polymath, he is a scientist and artist in one person. He carried out
dissections and anatomical studies with his partner Marcantonio
della Torre (1481–1511), a professor at the University of Pavia,
whose study books he illustrated. The legendary artist biographer
Vasari praises him for his accuracy in the illustration and
arrangement of bones, nerves, blood vessels, veins, and muscles.
Some of the anatomical figures, still based on animal sections, are,
however, imprecise. This drawing by Leonardo's f.e. shows the heart
with only two interior spaces.
Cardiovascular System and Principal Organs of a Woman, Leonardo da
Vinci, c.1509-10, Royal Collection (rct.uk).
However, he developed an increasingly complete picture of human
anatomy. In the winter of 1510, he has supervised a corpse section
at the university in Pavia and dissected a total of over 30
corpses. The drawings he executed during or afterward show his
extraordinary understanding of shapes, spaces, and how these two
aspects are brought together to demonstrate functionality and
But his efforts go beyond visual research and presentation. He f.e.
made a wax cast of an ox heart, through which he wanted to determine
what the function of the bulge at the end of the aorta (now called
Valsalva sinus) is. What medicine confirms in the 20th century is
what Leonardo recognized using a glass model made from this wax
cast. By injecting water with grass seeds, he found that the
function of this bulge is to stir up blood so that the tips of the
aortic valve get lifted and open. In this case, Leonardo shows
himself to be a scientist whose interest goes far beyond aesthetic
Codex Forster III, Leonardo da Vinci, ca. 1490, Victoria and Albert
Museum, London (WikiMedia Commons CC 3.0, Sailko).
Leonardo da Vinci researched all his life and always kept a small
notebook on his belt in which he made written notes and sketches.
He also augmented his drawings with detailed written explanations,
which he wrote right-aligned and in mirror writing.
Although in a letter to Ludovico Sforza, he announced his intention
to publish writings on perspective, anatomy, and mechanics, many of
his notebooks and study sheets were only compiled and made available
to the public posthumously.
Today there are 11 albums with drawings by Leonardo, which were not
only put together by him but more often by later collectors. These
so-called codices are now in various collections in Europe and North
America. The Codex Leicester, the only one in private ownership, was
purchased by Bill Gates in 1994 for $ 30.8 million, making it the
most expensive manuscript sold in the world to date. Many of his
anatomical drawings are in the so-called Codex Windsor of the Royal
Library of Windsor Castle.
Leoni Bindung, ca. 1590, Royal Collection, Windsor Castle (rct.uk).
On May 2, 1519, Leonardo da Vinci died at the court of Francis I.
and left all his notebooks and sheets, which were thematically
disorganized, to his pupil Francesco Melzi (1491-1570). His son
sells part of the bundle of loose sheets to Pompeo Leoni, a sculptor
who creates at least two albums from the sheets Around 1630, one of
these albums got into the hands of Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of
Arundel, one of the most famous collectors of drawings in Europe at
the time. Presumably, his grandson Henry Howard soon came into
possession of the book and gave it to Charles II. as a gift for
returning his lands. This is probably how it got into the Royal
Collection and the Royal Library of Windsor Castle in the 1830s.
Starting under Queen Victoria, all drawings in this so-called Leoni
binding were mounted individually to exhibit them as such.
This sheet with depictions of the shoulder, neck, and chest areas
serves as an example of Leonardo's anatomical studies.
Anatomical Studies of the Shoulder, Leonardo da Vinci, 1510-11,
black chalk and ink on paper, 29 x 20 cm, Royal Library, Windsor
It was contained in the so-called Codex Windsor, the album in the
Royal Collection, the sheets of which have been mounted
individually. What we can view in exhibitions today were originally
private, inaccessible notes of Leonardo.
This page was in a notebook with many other subjects and
illustrations with no specific order. Someone who had fallen into
Leonardo's notebook would have had to flip through to find these
anatomical drawings. The accompanying texts, written in mirror
writing, which Leonardo wrote left-handed, also prevent a cursory
understanding of their meaning. In Leonardo's time, mirrors were
still a privilege of the higher social classes, as they were
expensive and only a few workshops were able to produce them. Access
to the contents of his notebooks was already regulated by this fact
alone. The effort involved in mirror writing indicates the high
personal value Leonardo attached to his notes. He has been using
this technique since childhood and continues to use it into old
age. In his studies, he decrypts the world but keeps the key in
his hand. This emphasizes his self-image as a researcher and implies
his exceptional position in the society of his time.
MATERIAL AND TECHNIQUE
Leonardo here reconstructs the tissue structures in their functional
For the contours, he uses ink made of iron sulfide, gall apple
juice, and gum arabic, which he applies with a carved quill,
probably from goose feathers. It gives the precise lines of the
bones and muscle cords. He provides these with hatchings that
vividly describe the spatial depth and the course of the fibers.
These replace the contour lines in many places, creating the
illusion of three-dimensionality and movement of the body. With
black chalk, Leonardo applies shading in soft color gradients in
alignment with an imaginary light source. Here it becomes clear that
this is not schematic documentation, as the usual contemporary
medical image, but a narration according to the optical principles
of artistic practice.
THE ARTIST AS A SCIENTIST
There is the reasonable assumption that Leonardo wanted to publish
his studies in an orderly manner. In some places, he mentions books
and chapters that relate to one another like a scientific
Furthermore, his drawings are based on anatomical sections, which
must be carried out with meticulous care and planning since it is
challenging to cut open a body and study it in an orderly manner.
With this in mind, Leonardo conducts visual empirical research.
By varying the perspectives and body movements, he also declines
possible views to depict a broad spectrum of tissue structures and
their spatial-functional relationships. The image here is a carrier
and mediator of information and not, as before, a pure illustration
of anatomical writings.
CONCEPTION OF THE HUMAN BEING
Leonardo here shows the human being as an autonomous entity. He is
not depicted in relation to an environment but moves independently.
The artistic means used by Leonardo create the impression of an
enlivened individual. Leonardo invents varying viewpoints as they
could be observed every day. From this perspective, he 'removes' the
skin and shows us the structures underneath. This effect of a
counterpart with a naturalistically depicted face shows that
Leonardo wants to understand the physique based on everyday physical
appearance. He depicts a hypothetical individual that is received in
a general description of human anatomy. His anatomical figures on
this sheet are animated (lat. Animus soul / spirit). Through the
depiction of the face and the gaze that accompanies the movements,
mind and will are determined as the driving force of the body and
included in the depiction.
In a note, Leonardo refers to this connection, placing the mind as
the underlying principle controlling the anatomical structure shown:
‘if this his composition appears to you a marvellous piece of
work, you should regard this as nothing compared to the soul that
dwells within that architecture; and truly whatever that may be,
it is a thing divine’
This comment underlines Leonardo's attitude towards the nature of
human life, which includes the material dimension that can be
scientifically researched, and the spiritual aspect, which he
regards as a miraculous, divine mystery. Both aspects, as separate
as they appear, work together here in a functional sense.
 Vasari 2010, p. 331.
 Gombrich 1996, p. 294.
 See 4
 Klein 2008, p. 11-13
 The phrase ‘The sun does not move‘ can already be found under
these records - written before the publication of the Copernican
theory. (Gombrich 1996, p. 294)
 Chastel 1987, p. 242.
 Clayton 2013, p.9.
 Clayton 2013, p.21.
Becker, Kurt W.: Anmerkung zur Geschichte der anatomischen Sektion,
Clayton, Martin und Philo, Ron: Leonardo da Vinci. The Mechanics of
Man, London 2013.
Danzer, Gerhard und Rattner, Josef: Die Geburt des modernen
europäischen Menschen in der italienischen Renaissance 1350–1600,
Gombrich, Ernst: Die Geschichte der Kunst, London/ New York 1996.
Huberty, Maren: Das Bestiarium von Leonardo da Vinci, in: Febel,
Gisela und Maag, Georg [Hrsg.]: Bestiarien im Spannungsfeld zwischen
Mittelalter und Moderne, Tübingen 1997.
Held, Jutta und Schneider, Norbert: Sozialgeschichte der Malerei,
Klein, Stefan: Da Vincis Vermächtnis oder Wie Leonardo die Welt neu
erfand, Frankfurt am Main 2008.
Vasari, Giorgio/ Förster, Ernst und Schorn, Ludwig [Hrsg.]: Leben
der berühmtesten Maler, Bildhauer und Baumeister von Cimabue bis zum
Jahr 1567, Wiesbaden 2010
Eve, the seduced?
Part II: Imagery of the sinful woman
The artistic reception of the so-called Fall of Man clearly
testifies to how differently this story was told.
Adam and Eve, Franz von Stuck, 1920–26, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am
Main (©Städel Museum CC 4.0).
Images formulate the diverse views of gender characteristics and
question a natural hierarchy of men and women. The motifs of the
so-called Fall of Man seem to be well known and understood, but an
art-historical look at them shows that it has been only some church
interpretations that misogynously interpret a cross-cultural
Female artists provide us with an alternative view of how they are
understanding themselves as ‘images of women’.
III. Woman, tree, snake — motives and their cultural history
In the history of its reception, the narration of the Fall of Man
and the described temptation to gain wisdom has all too often become
the interpretation of a sexual desire that is primarily triggered by
women. The woman’s body — the eternal temptation of the flesh. This
projection was accommodated by the fact that, according to the
biblical story, Eve tasted the tree of knowledge before Adam and
passed its fruit on to him. The argument of the ‘nature of women’
was apparently proven.
Tizian, Adam and Eve, c. 1550, Museo del Prado, Madrid (wga.hu).
However, the proximity of the motifs ‘woman’ and ‘tree’ goes back to
the ancient Oriental roots of the story. Here, however, it is less
about sexuality as sin or the eternal temptation by women, but about
the natural processes of life cycles, reproduction, and fertility.
The Near East can be seen here as a breeding ground and
collecting basin for myths and narrative motifs, which were first
put together orally and then in writing. In the original version
of the Hebrew texts, the Old Testament also forms a synthesis of
these already existing ideas.
Even in the ancient Orient, the tree is a symbol of renewal, of
overcoming death; how the deciduous tree lives, blossoms and bears
fruit over the course of the seasons. The evergreen conifer, e.g. as
a Christmas tree, testifies to eternal life.
There is also a custom in some Indian cultures that a woman
symbolically marries a tree before the actual wedding to ask for
fertility in the marriage.
The snake also stands for an ambivalent force across cultures, the
poison of which can have a deadly or healing effect, which is why a
snake’s messages are mostly interpreted both as being wise but
cunning. Ancient Egyptian culture as one example knows the snake as
both a symbol of rule and as that of enemies of the sovereign.
Apep battling a deity, c. 1164–1157 BCE, Tomb Deir el-Medina, Luxor
Egypt (Wikimedia Commons author: Eisnel).
We know the snake Kaa from the Jungle Book, as well as the Indian
nagas (we think of Voldemort’s Nagini in the Harry Potter series).
They are mediators between different spheres, humans and gods, and
announce the good and bad.
Crosier, c. 1220–30, Metropolitan Museum, New York (MET).
The Christian interpretation of the snake is also ambivalent. It is
a plague and an antidote, like the brazen serpent of Moses, which
can be found on the bishop’s staff as a symbol of salvation.
Snake Goddess from the palace at Knossos, c. 1600 B.C.E.,
Archaeological Museum of Heraklion (Wikimedia Commons CC 4.0 author:
The snake, on the other hand, is often placed into context with the
woman. Presented as an ambivalent unity of motherliness and danger,
like the Echidna of the Greek legends, or as a sign of the
ambivalence of the living, which is always close to death, beginning
with the birth process itself. This Minoan faience figure, which
presumably depicts a snake goddess, awakens the idea of the
fertility of the body as well as the dangers associated with it.
A look at cultural history shows that it is due to a millennia-old
tradition that in the description of the Old Testament the woman,
Eve, takes the fruit of the tree, mediated by the snake.
IV. Eve as a female figure in art history
Eve, the first mother from whose womb all life is said to have
sprung, has been emphasized in her physicality especially since the
art of the Renaissance. At the same time, as the initial ‘sinner’ of
humanity, she is responsible for its mortality. Here the two-sided
image of the woman and mother comes up, who gives life and at the
same time gives death along with it.
Church fathers viewed the sex drive and the birth process
critically. They held that it underlies human suffering and death.
Since the most respected artists in European cultural history were
men who reflected heterosexual desires for the recipient, women are
stigmatized as stimuli and the source of suffering. Works of art are
supposed to convey this and were partly supposed to have a warning
function, but it quickly becomes apparent that the aesthetics of the
image and the original text are far apart.
The Fall of Man, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1522, Albertina, Vienna
(©Albertina cc 1.0).
Even the German Renaissance artist Lucas Cranach, who professed
Luther’s reformist ideas, shows us a woodcut that serves more as a
respectable porno, in which the snake is not only identical to the
figure of the woman but also faces her in intimate proximity. Adam
is of course as powerless as he is innocent. The contemporary
military clothing of the angel figure, which drives them out of
paradise, places the scene even more clearly in the temporal and
social environment of Cranach. The advance of panel painting fueled
a private, eroticized reception of the story.
Bible Moralisee, 1226–1275, Bodleian Library, Oxford (Bodleian
Libraries, University of Oxford CC 4.0).
This image pattern, which identifies temptation with Eve, goes back
to the illustrated manuscripts of the 12th and 13th centuries. This
sheet of the Bible moralisée for example in which the texts of the
Bible were interpreted figuratively, shows the snake with the
The Fall, Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1509–1510, Fresco Capella
Sistina, Vatican (wga.hu).
The humanism that has spread since the Renaissance, like here with
Michelangelo, increasingly draws attention to the physical strength
and beauty of the protagonists. Besides, there is the idea of male
energy. Adam as well seems to be active here and to leave Eve at a
Adam and Eve, Franz von Stuck, 1920–26, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am
Main (Städel CC 4.0).
Franz von Stuck, who professed the ‘logic of the flesh’ as a
principle dominated by the senses, focuses on the encounter and
potential fusion of man and woman in the sexual act. The attributes
of Christian history serve as a means of staging.
Surrounded by darkness, the figures emerge from a black, indefinite
ground. The psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud played an
important role among the Munich Secessionists, including von Stuck.
They held séances that were supposed to bring about the transition
to the unconscious.
On this ground, the idea of powerful sexuality as a life-giving
force grew, as it is illustrated in the original principle of Adam
V. Artistic self-empowerment by women artists
A century later, contemporary women artists are creating their own
Honey, Hannah Yata, 2017 (hannayata.com / © Hannah Yata).
Inspired by the motif of seductive corporeality and enriched with
plenty of ambivalent moments, the artist Hannah Yata (* 1989)
creates a version of the Garden of Eden that contradicts the
traditional role model of Eve. The typology of the naked woman is
broken up — she gains autonomy. The bizarre flood of ornamentation
shows her to be unpredictable, powerful, and expressive, rejecting
all projections of submission and restraint.
Half-Nude in front of Fig, Anita Rée, c. 1925, Kunsthalle Hamburg
(©Hamburger Kunsthalle / bpk Foto: Elke Walford).
Already at the time of the Weimar Republic, the artist Anita Rée
(1885–1933) painted a vision of herself that a little later, under
the National Socialist regime, no longer seemed feasible to her.
We see her here in a self-portrait from 1925, entwined with prickly
pears. Fruit-bearing and not easily accessible, lively, and sensual
— this is how one could name the analogies drawn here that Rée makes
between herself and the surrounding flora. Her breasts kept exposed,
become fruits, which, however, are less presented, but rather felt
by her. Her internalized gaze points to self-assurance and
self-sufficiency. We see a young woman around 30 years of age, in
the prime of her life — whereby in this case fertility is not only
reduced to the physical dimension of the woman but is also related
to her creative power as an artist.
As such, and increasingly denounced as a Jew from 1930 onwards, she
can no longer realize this design of a self-determined, artistically
creative life and she committed suicide in 1933.
Ohne Titel (Ich bin nicht gut, ich bin nicht böse), Elvira Bach,
1983 (artnet.com/©Elvira Bach).
Elvira Bach (* 1951) as well creates an image of herself which she
refers to in the title as ‘not good’ and ‘not bad’, while at the
same time emphasizing the naivety of this dichotomy. Playing with
the snake, holding it with sunglasses like a saxophone, it shows an
inspired attitude that reminds of jazz legends. Forming the letter
‘E’, carrying her breasts like fruit on its body and wrapping around
Bach’s head, the snake stands in symbiosis with the artist, forms a
part of her. However, she does not experience this with shame or
subservience but is embracing it with confidence as positioned
opposite the viewer. Grasping the supposed sin, playing with it, and
integrating it into her image of self in a double sense.
 Mc Gregor, Neil: A history of the world in 100 objects, London
2010, p.516.  Kramer, Felix [ed.]: Battle of the Sexes: From
Franz von Stuck to Frida Kahlo, Frankfurt 2016, p. 82.
Eve, the seduced?
Part I: A story of awareness and emancipation
From the interpretation of the original hebrew texts by the Latin
Church to an understanding of the Enlightenment and contemporary
Stanza della Segnatura for Pope Julius II., Raphael, 1508, Fresco,
Detail, Scene: Adam und Eva, Vatican (Zeno.org).
Man and woman as Adam and Eve. Their story has been told and heard
multiple times. We seem to know how the Bible describes these first
moments of humanity: God creates Adam, then Eve out of his rib, and
after that Eve spoils the paradisal stay with her unrestrained lust
for the fruit of the forbidden tree of knowledge.
This story, which is actually an interpretation of the original
texts, vouched for the discrimination against women in societies
influenced by the Christian church.
A more extensive interpretation is possible, which understands the
reaching for the paradisal fruit as an act of self-determination and
as a first step towards an autonomous conception of the human being.
All about the resulting image of women in art history in Part II: Imagery of the sinful woman
I. The myth of the hierarchical creation of men and women
In the first book of Moses, Genesis, we find two passages that
describe how God creates human life.
First Gen 1, 27:
So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he
created them; male and female he created them. 
‘Adam’, at this point, is not a proper name, but the Hebrew
expression for ‘human being’, derived from ‘adamah’, ‘the earth’ —
so it can also be imagined as ‘Earthling’. 
Grabower Altar / Petri-Altar, Master Bertram, 1375–83, Kunsthalle
Hamburg (Wikimedia Commons).
Then follows Gen 2, 21–22:
So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and
while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then
closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman
from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to
Michelangelo Buonarroti, Creation of Eve, 1509–10, Fresco Cappella
Sistina, Vatican (wga.hu).
Here, it becomes clear that the Bible, which we understand as a
continuous text, is actually a compilation of several writings by
different authors. In one version, man and woman are created
simultaneously — both in the image of God — while in the next,
another author wants to tell the story of the relationship between a
man and a woman. This leads to this second scenario of the lonely
Adam, to whose side God puts a woman.
A perfidious aspect of this version is that it reverses the natural
birthing process. A human being here does not emerge from the woman,
the figure of creative power and fertility, but from the body of a
These passages in the text mentioned above seem redundant, but this
generally caused little irritation among Fathers of the Latin
Church. They highlighted the latter version and extended its
interpretation further in their writings.
This is followed by the spread of the assumption that the woman is
created out of the man as well as after him and for him and is
therefore of secondary importance. Which basically just recited the
prevailing social order. An illustrious example of how the context
of interpretation significantly determines an interpretation in
words and images. The relationship between the sexes and their
respective social identities are repeated and consolidated.
Paul for example wrote the much controversial paragraph:
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not
permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she
must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was
not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became
a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing — if they
continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. 
However, from the 14th century at the latest, there were
proto-feminist counter-movements, such as the Querelles des femmes,
which were already striving for a different, contrary interpretation
of the Bible.
Even today some feminists believe that only the original Hebrew
version, before the defacements of the Greek translation and Church
Fathers, is acceptable if they do not even reject it outright, as
Mary Daly. 
II. The myth of sin
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.’ 
Fall of Man, Albani Psalter, English, 12th century, Cathedral
Library Hildesheim (europeana.eu).
In the understanding of Enlightenment, the conventional
interpretation of the Fall as sin is obsolete. Friedrich Schiller
describes it as the ‘first expression of independence’ in the
‘paradise of ignorance and bondage’, which leads people to the
‘paradise of knowledge and freedom’.  Eating the forbidden fruit
is considered a great and necessary act of emancipation from God,
whose key figure is Eve.
But it is not just simple disobedience to God that leads to this
autonomous image of human life. The respective tree of knowledge is
supposed to give wisdom:
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and
pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom […]. 
This wisdom, promises the snake, makes them ‘godlike’:
‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For
God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and
you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ 
According to this reading, the so-called ‘Fall of Man’ is actually
none — rather a story of becoming aware and the subsequent
separation from an undifferentiated consciousness. This separation
takes place with the realization of the human being who is different
from the environment and different from God. Only based on this
separation can Adam and Eve become subjects that determine and shape
the world around them. At the same time, however, they are thrown
into absolute self-responsibility. They, as well as their
environment, are both — friend and enemy, good and bad. They also
realize; the processes of the world are not merely directed by a
benevolent, divine intention, but an expression of precisely those
ambivalent forces that reside in humans.
The snake, as a mediator, reflects this ambivalence. As a being
created by God, it indicates the all-encompassing, non-binary
principle of the divine, which can only be understood through
In the original text, there is not one of the many Hebrew words for
sin or guilt to be found. 
The so-called ‘hereditary sin’ is a construct of Augustine
‘(354–430), a Church Father who fundamentally shaped the western
church.  Judaism, which also refers to the Genesis story of the
Old Testament, knows no original sin either. 
Besides, there is less talk of an act of seduction than of a sober
[…] she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who
was with her, and he ate it. 
At this point, ‘motives’ of human consciousness, in general, are
being displayed, which are curiosity, desire for self-determination,
self-reflection, and doubt. He becomes an autonomous actor and thus
the biblical narrative fakes in a subtle, multi-layered way the
beginning of historical events, the initials of action, and
The rest of this sequence is known — the first two are blown up, and
— wearing a loincloth- irretrievably chased from paradise. A cherub
guards the gate to paradise and ensures the irreversibility of human
fate and of history itself.
The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Masaccio, 1426–27, Fresco,
Cappella Brancacci, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence (wga.hu).
 Schüngel-Straumann, Helen: Die biblische Paradieserzählung als
‚Gründungsmythos‘ der Geschlechter, in: Benthien, Claudia und
Gerlof, Manuela: Paradies. Topografien der Sehnsucht, Wien / Köln
2010, p. 94–114., p. 102.  biblegateway.com.
 biblegateway.com, 1. Tim 2, 11–15.
 See Mary Daly Beyond God the Father. Toward a Philosophy of
Women’s Liberation, 1974.
 biblegateway.com, Gen 2, 16–17.  Benthien, Claudia und
Gerlof, Manuela: Topografien der Sehnsucht, in: Paradies.
Topografien der Sehnsucht, Köln / Weimar / Wien 2010, p. 7- 28, p.
 biblegateway.com ,Gen 3,6.
 biblegateway.com, Gen 3, 4–5.
 Schüngel-Straumann 2010, p. 108.
 Heiler, Friedrich: Religionen der Menschheit, Stuttgart 1987,
 Heiler, p. 396.
 biblegateway.com, Gen 3,6.
Embodiment of the Divine
Images of the human body shown today stage it as a means of
expressing individuality and personality. We dress, shape and
present it in the way we want to be seen and, above all, it should
stand for one thing - ourselves.
Is there an alternative to this subjective and profane view of the
body? What role did and does it play in other societies and
especially in religious contexts?
This short video shows how different corporeality can be seen in
approaches of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam.
The following video only touches on these contexts. If you are
interested in a follow-up on this topic, please leave a comment
under the video. The more people are interested, the more likely I
am to offer a more in-depth version.
For now, have a good time with this one:
The Body in Religious Art and Architecture
What are our ideas of other cultures? How much of them remain
superficial and what knowledge do we really have about them? Are we
influenced by the short presentations and reports of the daily
The process, which is commonly described today as 'cultural
appropriation', can consist of the adoption of superficial features
as well as the selected reproduction of knowledge and is an integral
part of human history.
All world religions and bigger cultures use a potpourri of images,
symbols and stories from many smaller traditions. The aesthetic
takeover of so-called 'orientalisms' is particularly pronounced.
Especially since the modern era, wealthy and powerful Europeans have
been portrayed in oriental attire.
Portrait of Ferdinando II. de Medici Dressed in Oriental Costume,
Justus Sustermans, c.1640, Galleria Palatina, Florence.
Sultans Wife Drinking Coffee (Mme de Pompadour), Carle van Loo,
1747, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg.
What was particularly important here was the visual comparison of
cultures. Either the dark-skinned servants were accommodated
directly, or the European image tradition was maintained in such way
that the oriental clothing and furniture were clearly recognizable
as accessories, as additions that were intended to demonstrate the
cultural reach of the person portrayed. This reach did not
exclusively, but most notably, due to the economic and political
colonization of other cultures, which, without such a strong urge to
expand, had correspondingly less reach. Napoleon Bonaparte's
(1769-1721) campaigns in particular initiated a state-controlled
production of both scientific and artistic representations.
Inscribed in these images, we often see this hierarchical
relationship between cultures and a stereotypical view of living in
But there were aswell artists who dared to obtain and reproduce a
more comprehensive picture; venturing on trips to the so-called
'Orient' and even converting to Islam (like the French artist
Etienne, called Nasreddinne, Dinet (1861-1929).
View of Palm-Groves Laghouat, Etienne Dinet, c. 1890, Private
The renowned Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) also made several trips to
North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. His paintings reflect
his concern for close observation, both of people and of handicrafts
and architecture. In some places he also takes up the mystical
character of oriental fairy tales.
Women of Algiers in their Apartment, Eugène Delacroix, 1834, Musée
du Louvre, Paris.
The Death of Sardanalpalus, Eugène Delacroix, 1827, Musée du
The literary scholar and cultural theorist Edward Said describes
this so-called 'orientalism' in more detail and formulates
critically how the political West views other cultures.
In this regard, this video provides more information:
Orientalism and Art History - Edward Said's Theory
This eCourse, which deals extensively with political backgrounds and
artistic interpretations, offers more on the subject of orientalism
in European art:
Orientalism in European Art History - Udemy Kurs