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Chapter Five The Labors of Adam and Eve
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Chapter Five
The Labors of Adam and Eve

The Newly Mortal Adam and Eve

The final scene in the dome begins the saga of the earthly tale of Adam and Eve (see Plate 2). We find Eve enthroned with spindle and distaff while Adam toils to till the earth with his mattock, both their bodies positioned below the horizon. On the one hand, as in the scene where she tempts Adam (see Fig. 20), Eve seems to have attained her goal of being like God: here she is the side issue neither visually nor theologically, but the central, frontal figure. Seated on a golden throne, elsewhere in the cycle an attribute only of the Deity, she appears regal, holding her distaff like a scepter and staring at Adam while he looks down at the ground. Yet the treatment of her body suggests a different message. Eve's physique is transformed in comparison to its depiction in the adjacent scene of the Expulsion; it has become expressly female and remarkably voluptuous. Her dress has also changed, for a light blue fillet now ornaments her hair


and a blue belt gathers her garment below her breasts. Her body is again twisted, with her torso facing Paradise and her head turned toward Adam and the earthly environment. The landscape is simple, with few plants and a pair of sheep, but this simplicity is deceptive, for the mosaic is complex in meaning. In the context of the preceding scenes, we can begin to understand the conflicting roles of the newly mortal Adam and Eve.

Interpreters of the Genesis text had etiological goals, and we have seen that the unknown planner of the San Marco mosaics certainly did as well. The cupola functions didactically as a mirror—and its circularity is like that of the convex mirrors in use at this time—into which viewers gaze and find explanations for why we are as we are.[1] This purpose becomes particularly relevant in these last scenes because Adam and Eve appear for the first time outside Eden, in our own human environment: they have become Everyman and Everywoman; their roles, our roles. Why must we work? Why must women be submissive to their husbands and bring forth their children in sorrow? Why do we die? Thus, in a generic way, Adam represents all men who labor physically to survive, his agricultural work aligning him with one of the basic tasks of human existence. Figures of men plowing and hoeing, enduring Adam's curse, appear in countless cycles depicting the Labors of the Months in manuscripts and on church facades—including the west portals of San Marco. These ubiquitous cycles further confirm the universality and timelessness of Adam's human tasks. Similarly, Eve holds the tools of spinning, a labor long associated with women and the domestic household in Western civilization.[2] According to late-thirteenth-century matrimonial law in Venice, on the eighth day of marriage—parallel to the first day of post-Edenic existence for Eve—women were presented with distaffs and spindles.[3] Yet at San Marco, we are once again struck by difference. No dutiful model of behavior, Eve sits in a pose that emphasizes her inactivity. Idle and enthroned, her hair uncovered, she represents luxurious aspects of female nature, not wifely industriousness. The post-Edenic Eve and Adam thus continue the medieval binary system of difference.

The standard explanation for Eve's enthroned posture and her attributes here is that she functions as an antitype for the Virgin Mary. This Western typological formulation, popular in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, is encapsulated in the well-known Eva/Ave formula of reversal.[4] Such comparison of the woman who closes the door to Paradise with the


woman who reopens it is present in this complex figure, as confirmed by the theme's popularity in roughly contemporary mosaics in Italy, for example, at Monreale, Torcello, Murano, and even in the twelfth-century mosaics in the Cappella Zen of San Marco itself.[5] The allusion to Mary also complements the typological references from the Old Adam to the New in the Creation of Eve and the Expulsion , for the Old Eve will similarly yield to the New.

The incident in Mary's life suggested by her antitype's distaff and her childless enthronement is the Annunciation, an event of particular interest in Venice. Tradition held that the city was founded in 421 on March 25, the day of the Feast of the Annunciation; because of this, Mary was the chief patron saint of the Republic of Venice.[6] According to the Protevangelium of Fames , Mary was spinning wool for the temple cloth when Gabriel came to her, an episode frequently depicted in medieval art, particularly in Byzantine Annunciations, and thus familiar to Venetian audiences.[7] Certain works in the West could also have influenced the artists at San Marco, particularly with their interest in reassociating themselves with Early Christian Rome. For example, Mary in the fifth-century Annunciation at Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome sits similarly enthroned, with distaff and diadem (Fig. 27).[8] But Eve remains an antitype, not a type, for Mary, for the very qualities the mosaicists stress—her susceptibility to Lucifer via the Serpent's deceptive speech, her pride leading to disobedience, her carnal desire for her husband resulting in the conception of Cain—directly oppose those of Mary, who listens to the archangel Gabriel, humbly obeys God, and miraculously conceives Christ by the Word. Where Mary is the rose, Eve is the thorn, the plant God makes to grow in Adam's earthly garden. We must not forget, however, that Eve's role is central in the drama. As in her relationship to Adam, Eve's difference helps to clarify Mary's being. For all her otherness, Eve nonetheless projects us forward in human history to the story of Redemption.

The Punishments

Perhaps the best way to further our explanation for this particular scene of the Labors is to consider the nature of God's punishments for Adam and Eve's disobedience. The operative notion, popular in contemporary Hell scenes as well, is that all things are ironically reversed in the end: former


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Figure 27.
Annunciation, c.432-40, mosaic on triumphal arch,
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome.

pleasures become eternal tortures, and punishments fit the crime. Thus Adam's and Eve's postlapsarian punishments yield a clearer understanding of their prelapsarian states. For example, the Genesis text never specifies Adam's prelapsarian immortality, yet his punishment of returning to dust implies that he had been immortal.[9] Similarly for Eve, implications regarding her character prior to the Expulsion are absent from the Genesis text until the meting out of punishments retroactively establishes them. In a reversal of temporal cause and effect, the nature of their punishments creates their prelapsarian selves and simultaneously explains what prompted them to sin. Further, certain qualities directly opposed to those understood in the Middle Ages as natural for man, woman, or serpent were imputed to their Edenic natures, suggesting that human nature in our earthly lives results from God's punishments for the Fall.


In the case of the Serpent, for example, our greatest knowledge concerning its original nature comes from the conditions of its punishment. God's curse condemns it to move on its belly and eat dust, and creates enmity between the Serpent and the Woman and between its issue and her issue (Gen. 3:14–15), who will crush the Serpent's head; writers like Josephus add logically that the Serpent lost its power of speech at this moment.[10] We infer from these corrections that in its prelapsarian state it traveled erect, spoke, and had a natural affinity for the Woman, soon to be renamed Eve. All these qualities help establish motivations within the narrative, making it more logical that Eve would be susceptible to this creature that women now "naturally" fear.

Adam's two punishments similarly highlight his prelapsarian qualities. The once-powerful and godlike Adam is condemned to toil to produce his bread, to work the cursed earth, which will willingly yield only thistles and thorns. Thus he has traded in his once-lush and productive environment, where he had merely "to dress it, and to keep it" (Gen. 2:15), for a hostile milieu requiring hard labor. His second punishment is that he must die, returning to that same earth he now works. In fact, the Creator expels Adam from Paradise specifically so that he will not eat of the Tree of Life and "live for ever" (Gen. 3:22). Mortality is the human condition, now that Adam is no longer godlike. The loss of these divine qualities is shown visually by his bent, profiled body, dressed in the skin of mortality and now located at the picture's lower left corner, far from his former location at the picture's right. Adam, who began the tale more perfect than Eve, has fallen farther than she. His prelapsarian reason, which established his dominion over the animals, is now tainted; his low posture demonstrates his affinity with the beasts, and the two animals that graze above him in the mosaic are in a syntactically superior location. Thomas of Cîteaux reports that the postlapsarian Adam became like a quadruped, with his stomach toward the ground, and John of Salisbury explains, "Rationalis creatura brutescit . Sic imago Creatori deformatur in bestiam" ("The rational creature loses reason. Thus the image of the Creator is deformed into a beast").[11] As is normal in the Middle Ages, metaphysical ideas are demonstrated physically, as the outside reflects the inside. And finally, the mosaicists show a sexual reversal—a feminization—of Adam. His leg is bared, revealed to Eve's desirous gaze. In an inversion of the divine hierarchy, he appears subject to her.


Eve's punishments, as listed in the Vulgate text, are significantly more severe than Adam's and reveal much about the qualities implicitly associated with her while in Paradise and with women in general. Although the Vulgate text does not explicitly state so, she obviously shares both of Adam's punishments: she, too, suffers the loss of Paradise and must work and live in the hostile earthly environment; and she, too, loses her immortality, as her formerly naked body is now dressed. But Eve must bear additional burdens because of her greater culpability.[12] First, she will have greatly increased pain in childbirth. Augustine, centuries earlier, interpreted this to mean that procreation, like Adam's keeping of the Garden, was already part of the first couple's existence in Paradise, but now would become unpleasant for Eve.[13] An act shared by both sexes—procreation—is identified only with Eve once it becomes a punishment, reaffirming her carnal nature. For her second punishment, the Creator himself condemns her to sin, for she will desire her husband, a state apparently absent from Eve in Paradise but generally attributed to her nonetheless. Jerome altered the sense of this punishment in his Vulgate translation by eliminating this reference to sexual desire and elaborating instead on the idea that Eve would be submissive to Adam, but—perhaps because both the Greek text and imagery of the Cotton Genesis retained the original Hebrew meaning and because Augustine and other early exegetes discussed the text in an Old Latin (non-Vulgate) version—the San Marco mosaics retain this punishment of desire from the original Hebrew text.[14] Thus Eve's postlapsarian nature is condemned by God himself to be ruled by her body and sexuality. Her third punishment, that her husband shall rule over her, certainly responds to Eve's prideful disobedience of God's injunction and reflects the generally held medieval suspicion that women tend toward insubordination. It further implies that even in Eden Eve had some unnamed power over Adam, perhaps her verbal facility or her seductiveness, yet ironically, it also clearly recalls Adam's sin of listening to his wife rather than his God; in a sense, then, that she shall be submissive to him is his punishment, too. These arguments indulge in the circular reasoning of the retrospective fallacy, where later effects condition the earlier causes and contemporary assumptions legitimate how the past is to be understood.

What aspects of Eve's punishments does the visual language of the mosaicists emphasize? Eve's punishments are more complex than her spouse's and actually occupy not only the Labors but also the first two scenes below the cupola in the east lunette (Fig. 28). The final appearance of Eve and


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Figure 28.
Conception of Cain and Birth of Abel, in east lunette, below the
Creation cupola, detail, San Marco, Venice.

Adam is in the Birth of Abel , to our right, a traditionally handled scene that alludes to pain by showing childbirth, although it does not depict discomfort in any specific way. Her second curse, that her desire shall be for her husband, is certainly depicted in the next to last scene of their story, the Conception of Cain . Located in the lunette below and immediately to the right of the Labors on the bottommost register of the cupola, it continues the spiraling movement of the narrative, its inferior location symbolic of its yet lower spiritual content. This highly unusual scene shows Eve and Adam in bed asleep, the evil of their act and its unfortunate issue implied by their sinister gestures: Adam's left hand caresses Eve's breast, as he shares her curse of desire, and Eve's left hand touches Adam's genitals. The child Eve will bear will himself prove bestial in nature and cause the first human death, a murder.


Eve and the Power of Women

Eve's third punishment, submissiveness, is God's antidote for Eve's pride and her guileful mastery of Adam. It overtly establishes hierarchy and power as themes in the narrative, and should conventionally be a major concern in the Labors of Adam and Eve . Yet this image of Eve is ironic. While we see a reversal of the once-exalted Adam to field laborer, Eve, as we have seen, does not appear humbled at all. Rather, she possesses even more intensely her prelapsarian faults of pride, disobedience, and concupiscence, thus reflecting medieval ideas about real, contemporary women. The one Edenic quality that is reversed is her most fundamental, her inferiority. Not at all submissive or marginal relative to Adam, Eve here occupies the position of power, enthroned and more central, while Adam himself is marginalized—even feminized—by his bent posture, revealing garment, and placement at the picture's left. Eve retains her priority in the following scene of Cain's conception (Fig. 28), where she lies to the picture's right and overlaps Adam's body rather than vice versa. Far from being tamed into submissiveness, she remains dangerous to Adam.

The San Marco Labors constitutes an early visual example of the medieval misogynistic "Power of Women" tradition, depicting a topsy-turvy world that exalts Eve as a kind of Queen of Misrule while ridiculing the toiling Adam.[15] The truereversal here is of the divinely ordained hierarchy between man and woman—the "natural" order—and its causes are the very qualities associated with Eve while still in Eden, especially her pride and her carnal nature. The reason for showing the reversal, however, is that it clarifies the real social structure.[16] While there is humor in this ironic image of "Queen" Eve and "peasant" Adam, we are warned not to forget that the mundane world is full of sinful women with powers not to be underestimated. Even Adam, made in the image of the Lord, has fallen to woman's wiles; could the thirteenth-century male viewer expect to fare better? Of course, what the thirteenth-century female viewer, with her inherently defective nature, was to think about the possibility of her own salvation remains unclear.

That Eve still suffers from pride, and in fact personifies that vice, is evinced in several ways in the Labors . For example, she is a "proud pauper" in contrast with her hardworking, common laborer husband. Like a mock queen, she sits idly enthroned with her "scepter," proudly dressed in finery, but seated in a barren field. This image resonates strongly with other


near contemporary works of art, both earlier and later. The Devil-Serpent in the twelfth-century mystery play Jeu d'Adam promises Eve "that thou be queen of the world ... And be the mistress of them all," but after her Fall, the Lord reprimands her, "Erstwhile thou heldest sovereignty.... How quickly hast thou lost thy crown!"[17] Unlike that Eve, the San Marco Eve proudly resists relinquishing her crown. A fifteenth-century Flemish illustration of the Labors in the Speculum humanae salvationis (Fig. 29), an early-fourteenth-century text that credits the Fall to Eve's vice of pride, similarly juxtaposes a laboring Adam in common garb with an Eve dressed in finery, holding spindle and distaff. The text admonishes, "and he who wishes to be a laborer in the fields, ought not to dress in silk."[18] The personifications of Pride found at the base of the popular Trees of Vices (see, e.g., Figs. 15 and 16) are depicted as enthroned females with crowns and scepters, placed in opposition to plainly adorned Humility.[19] An English example from the Psalter of Robert de Lisle (Fig. 30), illuminated about 1310, demonstrates the pervasiveness of this theme in late medieval Europe. Produced only shortly after the completion of the San Marco mosaics, it shows Eve reaching for the fruit from the mouth of the Serpent entwined in the Tree and simultaneously handing another fruit to Adam. Below the figures of Adam and Eve at the base of the Tree, a Latin text records that Pride is the root of these evils, and the titulus, Superbia , is located directly beneath Eve's feet. To Adam's side of the tree sits a man with a money bag who is labeled Dives avarus , while to Eve's side sits a man labeled Pauper superbus .[20] The greedy Adam, associated with the rich miser Dives, must now work for his food; the fallen Eve is linked to the proud pauper, a peasant enthroned as a mock king holding a sickle in place of a real scepter. While the San Marco mosaic avoids referring to Adam as avaricious, it clearly mocks the proud but fallen Eve.

Another basis for Eve's power over the postlapsarian Adam is carnal lust, for, as Pope Innocent III explains in his scathing condemnation of human earthly existence, On the Misery of the Human Condition of about 1195, "lust makes the mind effeminate"[21] —that is, weakens its power to reason. This ability to control Adam reflects Eve's imputed power prior to the Fall, and God's condemnation of Eve to desire Adam reinforces it in her postlapsarian character. Here, then, sits the seductive Eve, dressed in greater finery than Adam and newly ornamented and voluptuous following her expulsion. Her sudden change in costume—we recall how she and Adam appeared virtually identical as God propelled them out of


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Figure 29.
Labors of Adam and Eve, Speculum humanae salvationis,
Flemish, c.1485-95, Paris, Bibliotheque nationale, ms. fr. 6275, fol. 4r.

Eden—represents her lustful nature, confirmed by the similar dress of two other females in the San Marco atrium mosaics, both also associated with sex and seduction: Hagar and Potiphar's wife. Hagar (Fig. 31) is the Egyptian slave given to Abraham to bear him a child when Sarah is unable to conceive. The mosaicists contrast her depiction sharply with that of the modest and well-covered Sarah by showing Hagar with a fillet in her uncovered hair and a belt under her clearly rounded breasts. In the Cotton Genesis, Sarah had also worn a fillet in uncovered hair, but it is eliminated by the thirteenth-century mosaicists, who attribute to her the demeanor and costume appropriate to thirteenth-century Venetian wives, who wore their hair covered. The contrast between these two women is heightened by their progeny, Hagar's son Ishmael, who is "born of the flesh" (Gal. 4:23) and father of the Arab nation, and Sarah's Isaac, born "by promise" (Gal. 4:23) and the second patriarch of the Hebrews.


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Figure 30.
Tree of Vices with Adam and Eve and personifications of Miserly Dives
and The Proud Pauper, Psalter of Robert de Lisle, English, c. 1310, London,
British Library, Arundel 83 II, fol. 128v.


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Figure 31.
Abraham Handing Hagar to Sarah, detail of the
Abraham cupola, San Marco, Venice.

Potiphar's Egyptian wife (see Fig. 22), who tries to seduce Joseph and then falsely accuses him of wronging her, is more aristocratic and thus more highly ornamented. She wears a diadem in her exposed hair and has prominent breasts and a cross-legged pose we have already compared with Eve's following the Fall. By the later Middle Ages, the association of Muslim women with unbridled lust was a popular idea, and Venice in the age of the Crusades indulged in such anti-Muslim slurs.[22]

Eve's unveiled yet ornamented head is significant in other ways beyond


demonstrating her carnality. It further illustrates her proud nature that still wishes to be like God and denies her submissiveness to Adam, another punishment—like that of laboring—that she chooses to ignore. The widespread medieval (not just Venetian) practice of women's veiling their heads was a significant social custom, for it reflected centuries of biblical exegesis focusing both on the Genesis command to be submissive and on Paul's own explanation of that text in I Corinthians 11:3–10 and elsewhere. Paul explicates the necessity of women's veiling their heads as resulting from Eve's sin and, more generally, relates it to womankind's seductiveness and pride; the veiling itself demonstrates appropriate submissiveness.[23]

Tertullian's "On the Apparel of Women," where he similarly identifies all women with Eve and goes so far as to attribute Christ's death on the Cross to Eve's sin, also discusses what he sees as typically female love of ornament and adornment. His remarks may be the source for the never fully explained medieval attribute of spindle and distaff for Eve.[24]

You are the devil's gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God's image man. On account of your desert—that is, death—even the Son of God had to die. And do you think about adorning yourself over and above your tunic of skins? Come, now; if from the beginning of the world the Milesians sheared sheep, and the Serbians spun trees, and the Tyrians dyed, and the Phrygians embroidered with the needle, and the Babylonians with the loom, and pearls gleamed, and onyx stones flashed; if gold itself also had already issued, with the cupidity (which accompanies it), from the ground; if the mirror too, already had license to lie so largely, Eve, expelled from paradise (Eve) already dead, would also have coveted these things, I imagine! ... these things are the baggage of woman in her condemned and dead state, instituted as if to swell the pomp of her funeral.... Female habit carries with it a twofold idea—dress and ornament. By "dress" we mean what they call "womanly gracing"; by "ornament," what is suitable should be called "womanly dis gracing." ... Against the one we lay the charge of ambition, against the other prostitution.[25]

This passage, written in the early church but its sentiments not forgotten by the thirteenth century, stereotypes all women as vain and worldly, and the San Marco Labors confirms Tertullian's suspicions about Eve. There may even be a pun here on the word kosmos , which means both "ornament" and "world."[26] In her desire for power, the worldly Eve ornaments herself beyond her "tunic of skins" and, in so doing, usurps once


again the role of the Creator, the first fashioner of garments. Perhaps the scene of God clothing Adam and Eve, rare in medieval art but found at San Marco, was included to remind the viewer of Eve's initial clothing, simple but created by God himself, that she so quickly rejects. Her distaff and spindle reveal that she will create new clothes—from the wool of the animals above?—to make her newly worldly self yet more attractive and powerful. Her pointed sidelong glance at Adam will entrap him further, as eyes were understood in the Middle Ages to emanate rays rather than to receive them.[27] Ignoring God's command to labor and to be submissive, Eve instead enacts the punishment that Jerome omitted in his translation: she glances at Adam and desires him. Her twisted posture expresses her sinful and seductive nature, and, having discarded God's plain tunic of skins, her body appears suddenly voluptuous. Adam is turned away from her now, focused on his labor, but that she will successfully allure him is confirmed by the scene immediately below of Adam in bed with her, his left hand on her breast (see Fig. 28).

It should not surprise us that what the mosaics suggest about Eve are exactly the characteristics imputed to women in general in thirteenth-century Venice, as confirmed by other primary documents. Laws were written and customs established with the clear presupposition that women were defective, proud and unsubmissive, vain and lustful; for men, marriage to them was necessary, but also dangerous.[28] The Venetian Franciscan Fra' Paolino, writing his Del governo della famiglia in Venice in the opening years of the fourteenth century, shortly after the atrium mosaics were finished, describes women in a highly formulaic way that is at least partly based on commonplaces about Eve. Noting that a wife "è molto defetosa en lanema" ("highly defective in her soul"), he describes her as naturally unstable, quarrelsome, timorous, and prone to change her mind.[29] Further, she is an impediment to her husband's attention to wisdom. As Pope Innocent III had advised a century earlier, "She wants to master, and will not be mastered. She will not be a servant, she must be in charge. She must have a finger in everything.... So the burden of marriage is heavy indeed."[30]

Beauty and vanity, and their subsequent manifestation as concupiscence, were of special concern to late medieval moralists, and Innocent and Fra' Paolino were no exceptions. The former writes:

The wife insists on having precious jewels and a huge wardrobe, so that her attire often costs more than her husband's salary; but otherwise she sighs and


weeps, babbles and murmurs day and night.... If she be beautiful, men readily go after her; if she be ugly, she goes as readily after them.[31]

Fra' Paolino warns that beauty should not be her only virtue, for in reality, it is a danger. Citing Aristotle, whose works were widely read in the thirteenth century, Fra' Paolino states, "ella satrova plu prona po a carnal concupisentia" ("she finds herself more prone to carnal licentiousness").[32] Even Venetian law reflected these gender assumptions. Fourteenth-century Venetian criminal records indicate that women and men were tried differently for sex crimes,[33] and sumptuary laws regulating women's dress had already been passed in Venice as early as 1299. The expansion of these female-oriented codes in 1334 was possibly in direct response to Fra' Paolino's plea regarding the wife's excessive vanity:

While the husband takes trouble to satisfy her with everything in fashion, as costly garments, gold, precious stones, servants, and household goods, she is still full of lamentations, and says, "That woman is better dressed than I am—that other woman is more honoured than I am...." Sometimes the man follows too much the will of the woman in buying her ornaments, and this gives rise to much evil, excessive expenditure, and the woman is more than ever filled with pride, and for vainglory desires still more to go out and show herself. Therefore the man should dress his wife as he thinks right, and according to the manner which prevails among his equals. And if the custom of the city in this respect is extravagant, it should be regulated by laws after the manner of the Romans.[34]

Sumptuary laws enacted in Venice throughout the late Middle Ages and Renaissance aimed repeatedly at women's hair ornaments, dress, and jewelry. The codes were enforced by the Signori di Notte, a group established by the mid-thirteenth century, just at the time when many such social regulations concerning the body, particularly applying to a variety of groups of "others"—women, Jews, homosexuals, Muslims—were decreed.[35] Similarly, preachers of the time inveighed against women's vanity and lust, believing Eve's weaknesses and strengths to be those of all women.[36] The characterization of Eve in the mosaics is understood to be universal, and she sits in the cupola as a warning for all who see her from below.

Mortal Life below the Cupola

The final two scenes of Adam and Eve's story appear in the east lunette (see Fig. 28), followed by the story of their children, Cain and Abel (see


Fig. 3). It is meaningful that the gaze of the viewer drops from the scenes of Eden in the cupola above to the upper wall lunettes supporting the vault. Four cherubim, as we have seen, located in the pendentives of the dome between the lunettes and the cupola, guard that more holy Edenic space from Adam and Eve's descendants below—Cain and Abel, Noah, and so on—but also from us, the viewers in the narthex. A further sign that we have left the Garden is the setting; human-made and even feminine, it is the circumscribed interior world of women, the bedroom of conception and birth. Eve and Adam's role as progenitors dominates and is publicly acknowledged, just as the mosaics earlier had intimated.

The Latin titulus above the Conception of Cain (Fig. 28, left side), once again abbreviated from the Vulgate, is unusual in two regards. First, it is the "Increase and multiply, and fill the earth" dictum spoken by God (using an ait formula) immediately following the P-text creation of the bisexual human creature (Gen. 1:28) and so is significantly removed from its proper context. Second, the figure of the Creator is omitted, although his commanding speech is included.[37] His omission may be explained by the fact that the text that logically fits the episode in the visual narrative, "And Adam knew Eve his wife" (Gen. 4:1), does not call for the figure of the Deity, and the Cotton Genesis model would not have included him in its miniature; it is also likely that the obvious carnality of the scene precluded his presence. However, the reason for the textual substitution originates in the church's struggle with the heretical Cathars, even though that exhortation to procreate is largely subverted by the image.

The mosaic of Cain's conception demonstrates well the ambivalence felt in the late Middle Ages toward procreation, particularly in light of the raging dualist Catharist heresy of the time. On the one hand, there is the church's centuries-old distrust of the body and carnality; on the other, the ecclesiastical authorities in the early thirteenth century found themselves in the awkward position of needing to counter the Catharist conviction that all intercourse was by nature evil. Peter Comestor had already addressed this problem in his widely known text,[38] but it was still an issue when Pope Innocent III, ardently antiheretical, wrote On the Misery of the Human Condition . Even though stridently Neoplatonic in his favoring of the metaphysical over the physical, and dualist in many of his perspectives, Innocent narrowly offers arguments against the more extreme Cathars. He and the subsequent Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, which codified many


of the church's positions with regard to carnal matters, advocated the orthodox position that God's command, "Increase and multiply, and fill the earth" (Gen. 1:28), justified sexual intercourse.[39] Marriage and procreation were thus sanctioned by the church.

That the San Marco mosaicists altered the image-text relationship to juxtapose this divine command with Adam's and Eve's initial act of carnal intercourse was thus no small matter. The text was prominently invoked in the early thirteenth century as an anti-Catharist justification for marriage, and the mosaicists here properly assert their orthodoxy. However, the mosaics project the same ambivalent message asserted by Innocent's almost contemporaneous diatribe. Visually, Adam's and Eve's fallen and bestial natures are evident as they both abandon any pretense of identity with the divine and assume the position of the "two-headed" overlapping pairs of beasts in earlier scenes (see Plate 5 and Fig. 7). Their closed eyes and recumbent postures remind the viewer of Adam's sleep during Eve's fateful creation and Noah's drunkenness (see Plate 7 and Fig. 14); further, the patristic association of sleep with susceptibility to sensual delights, noted above, persisted in late medieval Italy. As Innocent himself wrote, "In carnal intercourse the mind's clarity is put to sleep."[40] Like the miscreant Eve, the child they produce is animal-natured and ruled by passion.[41] While following the general composition of the Cotton Genesis model, the mosaicists both alter and emphasize the left -hand gestures, so crucial to the visual representation of blatant carnality and loss of reason in the scene at San Marco.[42] We do see confirmed here that Adam was Cain's father, for the question of paternity and the possible adultery of Eve with Satan was another long-standing controversy. Paradoxically, however, the text offers divine sanction for this dangerous act, reminding viewers, after these many warnings against carnality, of their Christian duty regarding marriage and procreation.[43] Human conception is ultimately part of God's world, not initiated by some force of evil outside the Deity's control.[44]

The Cotton Genesis illustrates four additional scenes depicting Adam and/or Eve, but at San Marco, only the Birth of Abel (see Fig. 28) is included. This revision again reveals thirteenth-century attitudes, for it further discredits Eve's character by eliminating the final two speeches of the total of four allotted to her in the Bible—one when she names Cain and another when she does the same for Seth—and by omitting the event that


shows her most reconciled with God, the birth of Seth.[45] Although the Birth of Abel has been completely remade since the thirteenth century, the composition is probably faithful to the original.[46] We can see that the story of the first parents ends as it began, with Adam standing erect at the picture's right, holding and thus associated with the son who represents reason and faithfulness to God, while Eve lies at the picture's left,[47] allied with the evil Cain. Cain's attributes of a cup and an emptied wine-skin corroborate his (and Eve's) sense-ruled nature.[48] Orthodox theology would assert, however, that Eve is redeemable, as yet another line of reasoning in the medieval exegesis of the Genesis Creation text affirms. Paul, in I Timothy 2:8–15, summarizes the various defects of women, exhorting them to be modest, submissive, and silent, and ends with a reference to Adam and Eve and the reassurance that the "woman shall be saved by childbearing."[49] However, the mosaicists seem not to acknowledge that her curse shall become her salvation.

This lengthy exploration of Adam and Eve's fate after they leave Eden reveals the enormity of their sin and its consequences for human history. We see that Adam is a changed man. Where once he stood erect in the image of the Creator, he is now bent low by mortal existence with its physical labor and sexual intercourse. Only in his final scene is he restored to his upright stance at the picture's right. His story conforms to a developmental tale of initial perfection, fall from grace, penance, and redemption. With the help of the New Adam, he will regain his initial perfection. Eve's story is more complex. Her initial imperfection causes the fall from grace, yet her ironic enthronement while Adam labors suggests neither penance nor submissiveness on her part to Adam's or God's will. Fashioned initially from Adam's rib, she has become the thorn in his side, ever ready to exert her power over him and cause him further ruin. Essentially unchanged from her prelapsarian self, Eve is still ruled by pride, disobedience, and her carnal nature. No wonder Thomas Aquinas struggles to explain that she will one day be Adam's equal in Paradise.[50] In the thirteenth century, man is the victim, woman the cause.


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