[Milton-L] The Apple . . . and the Worm

Dario Rivarossa dario.rivarossa at gmail.com
Mon Feb 2 02:23:58 EST 2015

Dear friends, this:


is a fresco from the so-called "Bible according to Raphael" in the
Vatican Loggia, painted by Raffaello's team about 1517. The episode of
the original sin is clearly inspired by Michelangelo's, but with some
witty changes. For a starter, Adam's and Eve's positions have been
exchanged (so as to remove Eve's mouth from the notoriously
"embarrassing" place it finds itself in in the Sistine Chapel).
Like in the Sistine Chapel, the forbidden fruit is not an apple, but a
fig, possibly in the light of the Jewish Rabbis' teachings, according
to which the place of the Fall would immediately turn into the place
of the promise of Redemption.

But the most interesting detail is the Serpent. To portray it with the
head of a woman, usually the same as Eve's, was a very common solution
in Medieval and Renaissance art. Quite often, the Serpent also had
human arms (see Michelangelo), or lion's paws (see Dante's Geryon).
Original variations included giving the Tempter the body of a newt,

Here, the face is different from Eve's: she is "the other," "the
rival," Lilith (cf. Milton, PL 9. 828). And, possibly a unique case,
the body is shaped like a huge, disgusting worm --- that indirectly
hints at apples. It sort of foreshadows William Blake's pictures of
the Fall, especially in his long poem "Jerusalem" (see e.g.


il Tassista / the Tasso Driver

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