The fall of mankind and the expulsion from the garden of Eden” is one of many depictions on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel was originally commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV and therefore is how it received its name (The Sistine Chapel). Sixtus then called a large variety of well-known painters, architects, and others to work on the inside walls and ceiling of the Chapel. However, in 1508 the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was in the beginning stages of being repainted by Michelangelo Buonarroti at the request of Pope Julius II (Januszczak). The Sistine Chapel was and still is used for ceremonial services and ceremonies. Michelangelo reluctantly started the project in 1508 and finished in the year of 1512, four years later.
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Michelangelo was accredited for being a trained sculptor, architect, and poet, although he is most notorious for his work on the Sistine chapel. Although Michelangelo thought of himself as mainly a sculptor a painting project of this size and importance would have been a challenge for him. The Sistine chapel’s ceiling is 10,000 square feet or roughly 930 square meters (Michelangelo 20). Michelangelo constructed a scaffolding system that curved at its top, mimicking the curvature of the ceiling’s vault. Michelangelo often had to bend backwards and paint over his head – still an awkward position; which must’ve made his neck and back ache, his arms burn painfully and, according to him, permanently screwed up his vision (Merlo). Although the ceilings decorations were broken up into different parts there were nine depictions from the book of Genesis in the Bible (Michelangelo 23). The Focus of the rest of this paper is going to be on the Fall of Mankind and expulsion piece of the Sistine Chapels ceiling. This particular piece of the ceiling only took thirteen areas of plaster, which compared to the other areas on the ceiling this is one third the amount (King 192). The figures in this section of the ceiling were all substantially larger than those in the other paintings and only had six figures which compared to the number of tiny and abundant figures in The Flood are great.
This section of the ceiling is a diptych (Blech and Doliner 202), a painting of two equally important parts, the first part on the left of the scene is Adam and Eve still innocent, yet about to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. On the right side of the scene we see both Adam and Eve being exiled from the Garden of Eden. In the center, a serpent spirals around the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; it offers Eve the forbidden fruit. It is joined to a sword-wielding red cherub, whose arm seems to grow out of the serpent`s coils; these two figures are one. Parallel pairs of arms emerge on the right and on the left, combining the two scenes into this diptych.
When Eve decided to eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil it resulted in the awareness of the passing of time, “You will surely die” means you will understand that time means death. Awareness of time and life in paradise are mutually exclusive. Having tasted the fruit on the left they are instantly out of Paradise and into history, on the right (Milgrom and Duman).
If you look closely at the left side of the frame we can see that Adam is indeed picking from the tree, we can see that the tree is a fig tree and in the Holy Bible in Genesis 3 it says once they ate from the Tree of Knowledge they took figs and made clothing to cover themselves (Holy Bible).Now in scripture it does not say that Adam picked from the Tree it actually clearly states that the woman was deceived and took from the Tree and ate from it then gave it to her husband to eat as well(Joyce). It has been said that Michelangelo did this to show that man was just at fault because Adam did not faithfully pass on the true words of God and that is why the woman, Eve, was so easily deceived(King 193). You may also see God’s mercy in all this. The bases of why Michelangelo used the Tree of Knowledge to be a fig tree is for a purpose. It is said in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 10 that God does not ever present us with a difficulty He will not give us a way out of or already knows the solution to its problem. In this scene the fig tree is Michelangelo’s way of showing God’s way out. It shows God’s grace and mercy by using one simple visual affect (Blech and Doliner 204).
If we decide to look at the “fruit” that Eve is tempted with in the Garden we notice that it is an apple in the scene. In most cultures and even in today’s modern society we notice that the apple has a sense of mystery surrounding it, even in children’s movies such as Snow White when she eats a poisonous apple. If you look at the word apple, in Medieval Latin, the word apple is malum, malum is a most cases is the starting for male or mala, which is a synonym of evil (Blech and Doliner 203).
Michelangelo was suggested to have joined both the serpent and the red cherub for two reasons. It is said in the book “The Sistine Secrets” that “â€¦the two inclinations of the serpent and the angel, are on both sides of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden, since it is at this very moment and spot that humanity learns the difference for the first time.” In another interpretation of this scene is that the serpent and cherub are one because like good and evil, life and death are flip sides of reality, they reflect the nature of the divine (Milgrom and Duman). Both are valid and similar arguments but put into two different perspectives.
On the right we go back to the expulsion part of this scene. We see that the cherub with the sword is banishing Adam and Eve from Paradise forever. Immediately we can see the signs of the natural aging process. Part of their punishment was to lose their immortality and eternal youthfulness (Blech and Doliner 203). You can see the difference in the characters features more than ever when being exiled. The young beautiful woman on the left was transformed into someone almost completely different. According to “Michelangelo and the Pope’s ceiling” the young woman turned into a “hideous ugly old crone with tangled hair, wrinkled skin, and a hunched back, the same female who is cowering in shame and covering her breasts.”
The thing that I notice as I am viewing this piece of art is you can see in Adam and Eve’s faces the shame and guilt that is already evident in knowing they made a mistake. The thought that in today’s society we have so many rules and laws that we can’t do but looking at this picture it shows how easily we fall. Adam was commanded only one thing! In Genesis 2:16-17 “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 knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” The Lord commanded Adam to do one thing and the shame he feels that the only rule God gave him he broke is on his face. Although like I mentioned earlier it was not the fault of Adam for the woman was the one deceived and gave some to Adam, he still plays a large role in this.
For my interpretation of this piece of art I chose to make a short film of what the piece of art represents. In this film I go through daily scenarios of how in modern society we face the struggle of listening to what God tells us to do and actually following through with it. To start off the video I am talking giving the audience a foreshadowing of what is coming. Then the film starts off with Lizzie reading her bible on a set of couches. She talks to God and prays but during all of this she finds several distractions that keep her from hearing everything God is trying to tell her.
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She then has to make a decision as to which doorway she wants to enter. She chooses the right path after hearing Gods voice giving her guidance. The point of going down this path is to get to the other side, however, along the way she runs into six different struggles or different paths she can go down. She has to listen carefully and await Gods instruction on the right move to make for her. The second person she comes into contact with is trying to deceive her into thinking she is not cared about by her friends and family, the person tells Lizzie she is not worthy of love and her friends talk horribly about her. Lizzie then has the choice to fall into the trap Satan is feeding her (gossip). In other words take the apple and eat it or say no and go in the other direction. She makes the right choice and goes on down the path.
Later down the path she runs into a third actor who is trying to convince her to go to a party. This person uses all the tactics to get someone to go to a party. He tells her that anybody who is anyone will be going and that it will be fun. Lizzie hears a soft whisper in the background telling her not to go and to make a left turn.
Almost immediately down that hallway she runs into a man dressed in nice clothing trying to sell her fine clothes, house, car, and lots of luxurious items, this sin being love of money if she falls into it. The fact that almost immediately after saying no to the party another response shows up tells her she must be doing something right because the attacks are getting stronger and closer together which means Satan is getting nervous because she is doing something for God, and he does not want that. She tells him even though she would love to have all those things that is not how she wants them, that God provides what she needs and she has everything in Him. Then she walks away down another hallway.
Towards the end of this hallway there is a three way stop. She looks and sees a handsome young man dressed nicely; she notices he is trying to get her attention. He starts to tell her how beautiful she is and how much she means to him. They start walking down the hallway together as he tells her of the life they can have together. This pathway is lust. As they are walking suddenly her friend appears behind her calling out to her telling her to come back. They stop and Lizzie realizes she made the wrong turn she ignored Gods voice and followed what she wanted. The three then bicker over Lizzie and her friend tries to convince Lizzie to go in her direction as well, giving the godly advice, it may still not be the right advice if you are looking for the answers in another human. They reach the crossroads of the three way stop again. They go into a tug-o-war over Lizzie and the camera widens and then you see all the sin that tried trapping her along the way tempting her again. Lizzie notices what is happening but she strayed so far from Gods voice and into sin she can’t tell what to do anymore. When all of a sudden Lizzie bursts out STOP! The whole frame is frozen except Lizzie and she pushes them all away. The frame moves into Lizzies face and back out again and when it moves out nobody is there except her. She sits on the floor and apologizes for everything and asks God’s forgiveness. Lizzie then hears Gods voice and goes through the middle doorway and into where God has led her. The rest of the movie is me explaining the circumstances of what just happened and the reasoning of the chosen film.
In short my film is a modern version of disobedience to Gods voice or just the lack thereof knowledge. It is a depiction of how easily us as humans can fall and how quickly God is there to catch us.
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