Blackpaint 202


Michelangelo’s serpent

Looking at the Sistine ceiling version of the Adam, Eve and serpent story (the section in which Eve appears to have been engaging in oral sex), I see that M. represented the serpent as a woman.  Incredibly, I have only just noticed this.  It appears from a perfunctory check on Google that this is the case with other versions of the story; artists show the serpent either as a snake, or as a serpent- or lizard-like female.  In the Hugo van der Goes version, it’s true, the lizard thing looks to me a bit like Max Wall, but the artist was clearly going for female.

Why is this?  Presumably,  it reflects the misogyny of the Early Church – and the artists – but I would have thought a predatory male serpent would be more appropriate for the seduction and suborning of Eve.  As to Michelangelo’s treatment, what is Adam doing there anyway?  Well, we know what he’s been doing – see above – but he’s definitely not there with Eve and the serpent in Genesis; if they were both there, the serpent’s job would have been that much harder and Eve wouldn’t have had the opportunity to corrupt Adam and the sexual politics of the whole thing would be much more complicated.  The Genesis story is nice and simple; serpent (sexless or male in sense of being phallic) corrupts Eve; Eve corrupts Adam.  Men beware women – they are weak and a corrupting force, given half a chance.

Milton and Genesis

In Paradise Lost, the serpent’s body is “occupied” by Satan for the purpose of seducing Eve, and Milton refers to the creature as “he” throughout.  The serpent is also “he” in Genesis, but there is no identification with Satan; the serpent is merely “more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made”.

Job

While I’m on the subject, Satan in the book of Job is clearly not the Devil but a trusted servant of God, who is sent to arrange the trials of Job on the instructions of the deity.  Not sure where or how the two – devil and Satan – became fused.

Angels

I have three favourite depictions:

1.  Giotto’s “Lamentation of Christ”, in which the angels in the sky look as if they are doing “grief”  in an acting class;

2.  Fra Angelico’s “the Annunciation”, in which the angel (Gabriel, was it?) has a lovely pair of butterfly- like wings, red, black, grey and cream, and

3.  Carlo di Braccesco, another “Annunciation”, in which the angel body surfs through the sky on a board, with a long-stalked flower, a lily I think, over his (its?) shoulder.

Listened to Angels Love Bad Men, by the Highwaymen.

“Angels love bad men, that’s how it’s always been,

They give their whole hearts when they fall;

Angels love bad men, that’s how it’s always been,

Love pins their hearts against the wall.”

Poor Tom (again, but I like it) by Blackpaint

4/10/10

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