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Advent Calendar 2004

December 14

The Expulsion from Eden, by Masaccio
Article by Joseph Phelan
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Masaccio: The Expulsion from Eden There is a passage almost hidden in Genesis 3, between the Lord God's curses toward our first parents and their expulsion from Eden (I quote from Robert Alter's recent translation).

"And the human called his woman's name Eve, for she was the mother of all that lives. And the LORD GOD make skin coats from the human and his woman, and He clothed them. And the LORD GOD said, Now that the human has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he may reach out and take as well from the tree of life and live forever. And the LORD GOD sent him from the garden of Eden to till the soil from which he had been taken. And He drove out the human and set up east of the garden of Eden the cherubim and the flame of the whirling sword to guard the way to the tree of life."

Masaccio's fresco of the Expulsion from Eden, showing the naked humans staggering through the portal from Eden to Earth wailing all the way is unsurpassed for its combination of monumental humanity and profound horror.

But we must remember that this tragedy is just the beginning of the story of humankind. The touching care of God toward his sinful creatures, even in the process of punishing them, presages their eventual salvation which Jesus will bring to all mankind.

Note that the Web Gallery of Art shows two versions of the fresco: the unrestored version, pictured at right, and the restored version, which is much brighter and lacks the leaves which were added in the 17-century to clothe the couple.


This article is copyright 2002-04 by Joseph Phelan. Please do not republish any portion of this article without written permission.


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