This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Monday, December 24, 2012

December 24 -- Feast of Adam and Eve

Eve Tempted, by Hiram Powers: National Portrait Gallery
This is Year Three of honoring them, individually or collectively, on this blog.  I figure that short of the folks I am not quite qualified to comment on (Jesus, certainly, and many of the aspects of Mary the Theotokos), they are perhaps the greatest figures in the Whole Tradition. Whether you accept them literally or metaphorically, they are the homo primus, our Original Ancestors, the transition between animals (natural, pure, and sinless) and humans (cognizant, conflicted, and variably moral).

Detail of the same
Serpent from the same
If you would like to read my brief and superficial thoughts about Adam, they are here.  If you want to read my longer contemplation of Eve, that's here.  In this post, I am not reflecting so much on them as on representations of Eve, both of which I saw last summer at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.  A quick search of the Gallery's website showed that there were several representations of Adam and Eve, but in my day-long visit, I only noticed the two of Eve.  That evening, I boozily and irrationally contrasted the over-representation of Andrew Jackson (3x) with the reasonable representation of George Patton (2x) and Winston Churchill (2x).  I also attempted to explain that two portraits of Arthur Ashe was not unreasonable since one was in an exhibition called "Champions" and the other was in an exhibition of notable African-Americans.  My failure to explain this clearly was not mitigated by either repetition or increased volume, but that does not diminish my conviction.  For the record, I neither counted nor questioned the number of portraits of Washington and Lincoln, neither of whom are likely to be over-represented no matter how many paintings and sculptures of them are displayed. 
Eve Disconsolate by Powers: NPG

About Eve... there were two sculptures of her there, both by Hiram Powers.  Powers was a native son of Vermont whose Dad moved him to Ohio early in life, but whose interest in sculpture led him to Florence.  He became a celebrated artist, perhaps best known for The Greek Slave, but his Eve Tempted and Eve Disconsolate are both quite famous.  Presenting them together is very sensible -- the expressions before and after the consumption of the fruit present a narrative which must only be guessed at if they are seen separately.  The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston had only Eve Disconsolate, a fine sculpture which expresses much, but my father-in-law wondered rather impishly whether she was disconsolate before or after the Fall.  The position of the two sculptures in the Smithsonian left little doubt of the artist's intent, and that doubt can be banished with the simplest research about Powers.

by eilocin, from DeviantArt
On the question of whether Eve is over-represented in art when compared to Adam, I suspect that the explanation lies in the feminine ideal of beauty.  Eve gave artists  an excuse to depict a nude woman, but who really wants to look at a remorseful Adam.  Thinking that Adam Tempted might be a productive Google Image search, I found most of the results were still all about Eve.  Adam is the object, Eve the agent.  Only one, entitled Adam the Tempted, focused on him.  He stands with the washboard abs and moussed hair of an Abercrombie model as a thick, muscular serpent wraps itself around his arm.  No wily little snake for Adam! 

There are better photos of these sculptures available on the web, but sometimes it does my heart good to give the photo credit to myself.  It's vanity, I know, but call it an early Christmas present to myself.

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