Leonardo da Vinci

Artists as drivers of anatomical research in Renaissance Italy
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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 (WikiMedia Commons).
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, Milan (wga.hu).
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 craftsman.
Taddeo Drawing after the Antique, Frederico Zuccaro, c. 1595, J. Paul Getty Museum, New York (getty.edu)
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 painting.
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.[1] 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, Venice (wga.hu).
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.[2] The legendary artist biographer Vasari praises him for his accuracy in the illustration and arrangement of bones, nerves, blood vessels, veins, and muscles.[3]
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.[4]
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.[5] 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 movement.
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.[6] In this case, Leonardo shows himself to be a scientist whose interest goes far beyond aesthetic issues.
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.[7] He also augmented his drawings with detailed written explanations, which he wrote right-aligned and in mirror writing.[8]
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.[9]
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.[10] 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 (wga.hu).
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.[11] 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.
Leonardo here reconstructs the tissue structures in their functional context
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.[12] 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.
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 treatise.[13]
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.
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’ [14]
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.
[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMsaFP3kgqQ&ab_channel=TED-Ed
[2] Vasari 2010, p. 331.
[3] Ibid.
[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9xUL5Yi_8M&ab_channel=naturevideo
[5] Gombrich 1996, p. 294.
[6] See 4
[7] Klein 2008, p. 11-13
[8] 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)
[9] Chastel 1987, p. 242.
[10] https://www.rct.uk/collection/933320/the-leoni-binding
[11] Clayton 2013, p.9.
[12] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-f0ym3CtleQ&ab_channel=-RoyalCollectionTrust
[13] Clayton 2013, p.21.
[14] Ibid.
Becker, Kurt W.: Anmerkung zur Geschichte der anatomischen Sektion, Stuttgart 2002.
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, Würzburg 2004.
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, Köln 2006.
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
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For textual background see
Part I: A story of awareness and emancipation
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 scenario.
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: Zde).
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. [14]
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 woman’s head.
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 significant level.
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’[15] 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 and Eve.
V. Artistic self-empowerment by women artists
A century later, contemporary women artists are creating their own visions.
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.
[14] Mc Gregor, Neil: A history of the world in 100 objects, London 2010, p.516. [15] 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
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From the interpretation of the original hebrew texts by the Latin Church to an understanding of the Enlightenment and contemporary positions.
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. [1]
‘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’. [2]
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 the man.[3]
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 man.
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. [4]
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. [5]
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.’ [6]
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’. [7] 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 […]. [8]
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.’ [9]
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 invoked wisdom.
In the original text, there is not one of the many Hebrew words for sin or guilt to be found. [10]
The so-called ‘hereditary sin’ is a construct of Augustine ‘(354–430), a Church Father who fundamentally shaped the western church. [11] Judaism, which also refers to the Genesis story of the Old Testament, knows no original sin either. [12]
Besides, there is less talk of an act of seduction than of a sober process;
[…] she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. [13]
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 creation.
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).
[1] biblegateway.com.
[2] 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. [3] biblegateway.com.
[4] biblegateway.com, 1. Tim 2, 11–15.
[5] See Mary Daly Beyond God the Father. Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation, 1974.
[6] biblegateway.com, Gen 2, 16–17. [7] Benthien, Claudia und Gerlof, Manuela: Topografien der Sehnsucht, in: Paradies. Topografien der Sehnsucht, Köln / Weimar / Wien 2010, p. 7- 28, p. 17.
[8] biblegateway.com ,Gen 3,6.
[9] biblegateway.com, Gen 3, 4–5.
[10] Schüngel-Straumann 2010, p. 108.
[11] Heiler, Friedrich: Religionen der Menschheit, Stuttgart 1987, p. 430.
[12] Heiler, p. 396.
[13] biblegateway.com, Gen 3,6.

Embodiment of the Divine

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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


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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 press?
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 other countries.
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 Collection.

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 Louvre, Paris.
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