EYCK, Jan van
(b. before 1395, Maaseik, d. before 1441, Bruges)

The Ghent Altarpiece: Eve

Oil on wood, 213,3 x 32,3 cm (with the top grisaille)
Cathedral of St Bavo, Ghent

At the far left and right of the composition respectively are the figures of Adam and Eve.

The realism of these two figures struck contemporary viewers forcefully. The representation of everyday life in close proximity sacred elements can be interpreted both as a new aesthetic and as evidence of a more populist approach to Christianity. We can see Adam and Eve, the first couple, whose posture and subtly rendered nakedness make them seem more actual than the main subject, which takes up several panels. One might even describe these panels as scenes in the story of Adam and Eve because (from the standpoint of the observer) they are shown slightly elevated and walking towards the holy events. The undisguised pregnancy of Eve and Cains murder of Abel shown above her open the route to humanity's suffering - but also to God's grace and his willingness to sacrifice his own son, the "Lamb of God," in order to fulfill his promise of redemption. This interpretation takes into account the way in which the artist's aim to paint realistically accorded perfectly with the profound piety of his age.