Adam & Eve Are Not Suffering Too Much about Being Banished (They Have A Substantial Compensation – Genital Embrace)


Emil Nolde, “Adam and Eve Banished from Paradise”, 1919


Masaccio, “Adam and Eve Expelled from Paradise”, (1424-25)

In traditional representation of Paradise Lost the punishing action of the paternal authority is the engine of the plot and the main focus of the painter. For example, in Masaccio’s fresco (1424-25) Adam and Eve are crying like children overwhelmed by Father’s punishment, while in Nolde’s painting – Adam and Eve take life as it is and as it comes. They have lost The Paradise – “Ok, this is the past, what is important now is what is ahead of us”. They perceive their situation “pragmatically”. Masaccio’s Adam/Eve only look like adults – psychologically they are eight-ten-years old. In Nolde they are us today who learn about the world outside the family very early and are driven to succeed in survival not only by the call of the bone but by the suggestion of a system that breeds fighters.

Let’s look at the serpent! It is as big and as central as sexual desire in human libidinous economy. Adam & Eve are, obviously, outside the Paradise trying to assess life before them. But the serpent on the fatal tree is not behind them, in Paradisiacal past but together with our confused and disoriented, by what happened, ancestors! Serpent is also outside Paradise! And so is the primordial Tree! In other words, in Nolde’s representation the snake is forever between Adam and Eve! In Paradise the snake’s role was to unite them, but in human life the snake will not only unite but will also separate them by injecting into them permanent insecurity, jealousy and hate as a part of a general sexual rivalry between amorous competitors which is the condemnation of an earthly life.

Adam with his tense/vigilant gaze – is already a fighter. He feels confident – feeling of power and of the need for more power is already feeding his narcissism. He is a protector, provider and the bread winner, although there is no bread yet. Eve has lost the ability to see details (the astonishment has burst her eyes wide open – she cannot believe what human life is about!) She will be in this stupor almost for whole human history till recently – (until the appearance of the idea of love as a condition for sexual relations, the idea of equality between genders, right to vote, to divorce, the right for abortion, and similar “democratic frivolities” which made its paths in the wild forest of patriarchal conservative habits.

Adam’s hands are already in blood – for whole history this blood will not even dry, and, of course, it will never be cleaned from his hands. The times when Lion/Lioness we see in the background (in Paradise even the lion’s mane is combined with feeding nipples of the lioness) was bringing bones as a present are gone. From now on, according to Nolde’s painting, Eve’s breasts will be the most available fruits of nature. But look at the Biblical area of Adam’s body – is it naturalistically dark or is it symbolically dark green (Edenic, Paradisiacal)? Adam’s organ of human race is the only paradisiacal bodily part left in him and for him. All the rest of him belongs to the world of fight/survival. And even in Eve – the closer to the magic spot, where her thighs close in, the greener life is.

Adam is ready to survive by any price. Eve will be his precious toy to build their mutual life. While Adam’s right leg is ready to use the support of the earthly ground, his left foot is still activated by monkeys’ reflexes of grasping/grabbing branches and climbing trees. Is Nolde suggesting here that the Biblical Eden is to be seen as an innocent metaphor of a pre-vertical condition of our ancestors when sexual intercourse was free and, for this reason, not sexual at all but just a meaningless and natural bodily contact?

The snake also looks at the world. Does it foretaste good times with future Adams and Eves? Was it banished together with Adam and Eve? While in Paradise it almost had nothing to do (what is one couple to seduce?) – In human world the serpent will be busier and busier with each generation. And the Biblical tree where the human yearning to live and human stinging curiosity embrace each other (like snake’s coils embrace the lustfully pink trunk), will continue to grow inside the world into endless gardens of lust, love, fight, reproduction and murder.

With the help of Nolde’s painting we see that the mighty verdure of branchy leafs was above our heroes – it was their sky, but that in this world verdure becomes dwarfed (is transformed into grass) – Adam and Eve’s progeny is prone to solemnly feel themselves above nature in a megalomaniacal delirium of being chosen by God for living in the heavenly eternity. In Eden there were trees over the heads encouraging life, while in the human world there are heavens encouraging separation from joys and fears of living for the sake of the bliss of after-life.

So, human life in Eden was sublime but naturally childish (adulthood was reserved for God) while life in the world by the necessity to survive on our own, has forced our adaptation to reality but simultaneously created in us the panicky desire to live amidst Heavens. Look at their eyes, which now reflect the sky (even in Adam who is concentrating on providing for survival, but especially in Eve) – the focus of their dream of eternity – “sublimated” version of what is lost forever.

With his gift to see old tale of truth with fresh eyes, Nolde mediates between us, today’s Adams & Eves, and the founding parents of our human race. His fertile intuition helps us to be more aware of our human condition in its actuality and history.