Scenes from the Creation
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Simon Bening
Flemish, Bruges, about 1525 - 1530
Tempera colors, gold paint, gold leaf, and ink on parchment
6 5/8 x 4 1/2 in.

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Underneath a date palm, a luxuriously clad God the Father lifts up and blesses Eve, his new creation formed from Adam's rib. Behind the three figures, the golden Fountain of Life pours water into a stream from which the animals of Paradise drink.

In the background, Adam and Eve reach for the forbidden fruit on the Tree of Knowledge. Halfway up the closest hill, an angel wielding a sword drives the couple from Paradise in punishment for their sin. On top of the mountain, Cain and Abel offer their gifts to God, Abel's signifying God's acceptance with rising smoke and Cain's signifying God's rejection with descending smoke. Thus in the beautiful landscape of Paradise, the tragedy and sorrow of humanity's fate already casts a gloomy pall on the glory of Creation.