Scenes from Genesis

Paris, 1250-60
Manuscript illuminations
From the Wenceslaus Psalter, folios 7v and 8a
MS. Ludwig VIII 4 (MK.95)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

The image on the left presents the six days of Creation and the creation of Eve. The six days are pictured as follows:

In all these images "God" is pictured as the Son, whom medieval thought credited with the Creation. The half-roundel on the left shows him as the Word existent from all eternity, and the one on the right pictures him as the Christ enthroned with his cross and orb. The golden circle partly visible below him may be intended to express his being "above the heavens."

In the lower right is a narrative taken from the following chapter, in which God creates Eve from Adam's rib.

The facing page, 8r, covers the story of the Fall of Man and its consquences, from chapters 3 and 4. It arranges the images in the same way as 7v.

  1. Upper left: God forbids Adam and Eve to eat from the "tree of knowledge of good and evil." (Actually, in Genesis 2 Eve has not yet been created when this injunction is laid down.)
  2. Center left: The serpent persuades Adam and Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit. It has a human face, probably intended to be that of a woman.
  3. Lower left: The two are expelled from Eden.
  4. Upper middle: God gives them "garments of skins."
  5. Center middle: Condemned to labor for their needs, Adam digs with a shovel and Eve spins thread with a distaff.
  6. Upper right: Cain and Abel are born. The image implies that they were twins, but in the test Cain is the elder of the two. Eve's recumbent posture resembles Mary's in the Nativity images of this era. Mary was celebrated as the "new Eve" just as Jesus was the "new Adam" (Romans 5:14; I Corinthians 15:22, 45).
  7. Center right: Abel offers God a lamb from his flock; Cain, a sheaf of wheat.
  8. Angry that Abel's gift was received with respect, Cain slays him.

Thus the artist presents the consequences of Adam and Eve's sin as hard work and death.

View the two facing pages in full resolution.
Read more about images of the Creation.
Read more about images of Adam and Eve.
Read more about images of Cain and Abel.

Photographed at the museum by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.