LIMBOURG brothers
(b. 1370-80, Nijmegen, d. 1416, Nijmegen)

Les très riches heures du Duc de Berry

c. 1416
Manuscript (Ms. 65), 294 x 210 mm (folio size)
Musée Condé, Chantilly

This miniature depicts The Fall and the Expulsion from Paradise.

In the centre of the circular Garden of Eden surrounded by a golden wall stands the ornate Late Gothic edifice of the Fountain of Life. The miniature (from the Book of Hours of the Duc de Berry) illustrates four episodes of the Fall and the Expulsion.

On the right-hand side we can see the temptation: Satan with an alluring face and hair, but with the lower part of a serpent, is handing over two golden apples to Eve, who has accepted one and is just taking the other. In the next scene Eve herself is the temptress: she hands over one apple to Adam, who looks like a nearly vanquished hero who resists to the last. One of his knees and one of his hands are already on the ground, he turns his body backwards and his arm is stretched out to receive the apple. Thus he evinces the effort he is making to resist temptation. In the third scene God the Father reproaches the couple. The lengthened rays of His halo seem to emphasize His words, while He is counting on His fingers the consequences of the sin. With his right hand Adam transfers the responsibility to Eve, who hides her sinful hand behind her back. And, finally, the casting out: an angel attired in fiery hues hustles Adam and Eve out of Paradise through a Gothic golden gate. They nostalgically look back upon the place of their happy and peaceful life. In front of them stretches the bleak and unknown world of bare mountains and awe-inspiring seas - indeed, the composition conveys to perfection the complete insecurity awaiting them.

The picture has no frame, the border of the whole representation being provided by the wall of Paradise. It is from this frame that Adam and Eve have to enter a world which has no boundaries, in which the very shores of the sea vanish, apparently turning into clouds in the infinity of space.

Although the ground of the Garden of Eden is stretched behind the figures like a tapestry, it is not merely a decorative surface, since the gradual darkening of the fresh green lawn conveys spatiality. In fact the hardly discernible nuances of green seem to lend the circle a spherical quality. The painter's intention in this respect is also evinced by the use of perspective in the delineation of the fountain and also of the gate (for example, the roof of the fountain is seen and represented from below, whereas its hexagonal basin appears as if seen from above; indeed, the latter does not turn as steeply into the plane of the picture as does the ground itself). The lucid spatial relationship between the figures and the firm stance of the kneeling Adam lead us to conclude that the artists had definite ideas about representing space.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.