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Eve tempted by the Serpent
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nsandstrom's picture

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Though he was actually a Romantic painter, in many ways William Blake was a Renaissance artist.

To English scholars he is known as a poet - as someone who wrote her thesis on British Romanticism, I myself spent many a seminar reading Blake. To art historians he’s an engraver and illustrator. To music history nerds, Blake is the man the man who gave The Doors their name (“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite” - from “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”).

In Eve Tempted by the Serpent, now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert, Blake combines his poet and artistic interests, depicting a scene from John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” (oh yeah, and the Old Testament) in tempera paint on copper. Adam sleeps (such a dude), while Eve is seduced by a rather dragon-like looking serpent. Can you blame her?

In the painting, her body is fully exposed: she has one arm stretched high, almost in a kind of victorious pose that celebrates the female form, and exalts Eve’s power to make her choice between the serpent and Adam. Though Blake lived from 1757 to 1827, long before the advent of contemporary feminism, he did believe in female power - he educated his wife, a rare experience for women at the turn of the 19th century. He was a romantic Romantic. The attention he pays to his slender and golden-haired Eve (attention that the viewer thereby gives) seems a kind of adoration, something which may not be a far cry from the truth, as this temptation was a frequent subject of Blake’s. In fact, he illustrated Milton’s “Paradise Lost” more than anyone else.

Unfortunately, this painting is no longer in tip-top shape. For it, Blake used a glue-based tempera paint on copper, accented with gold. The richness of these materials seems to continue to suggest Blake’s reverie for this particular Genesis tale, but unfortunately, rather like the Garden of Eden itself, the image hasn’t lasted perfectly under the pressures of time.

Despite this, however, there remains a kind of mysticism (or, perhaps, spirituality) to the work. The rich gold and blue tones seem to make the painting glow. Light radiates from the figure of Eve herself. The moon is eerily dark. This is, like, an Instagram model’s, like, *dream* festival photo - something that would be captured on an adventure that Blake, as a vision-having hippie himself, would probably be down for.

Sources

Sources

  1. “Eve Tempted by the Serpent.” Victoria and Albert Museum, accessed 15 June 2019, http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O80678/eve-tempted-by-the-serpent-temp....
  2. Greg, Andrew. “William Blake: the Romantic visionary.” Art UK, 28 November 2017, accessed June 15, 2019, https://artuk.org/discover/stories/william-blake-the-romantic-visionary.
  3. Larry. “Eve Tempted.” William Blake: Religion and Psychology Blog18 September 2011, accessed 15 June 2019, http://ramhornd.blogspot.com/2011/09/blake-wrote-his-descriptive-catalog....
  4. Plewis, Amy. “The Temptation and Fall of Eve.” Art-Theoria, August 2018, accessed 15 June 2019, http://www.art-theoria.com/painting-of-the-month/the-temptation-and-fall....
  5. “William Blake Quotes.” goodreads, accessed 15 June 2019, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/3679-if-the-doors-of-perception-were-cl....

Comments (1)

Kent Z

I like this one because the author, William Blake, has used his own skill to present the situation of Eve got tempted by the Serpent might look. I curious why Adam is falling asleep at that time.