Adam and Eve Icon: Biblical Background and Variations

Adam And Eve Icon: Biblical Background and Variations

Adam and Eve icon illustrates the texts from the Old Testament, describing the history of the first people, the forefather and foremother of the mankind. According to the Bible, God the Father created Adam of the ashes of earth. He made Adam in His image, while Eve appeared miraculously from her husband’s rib. Corrupted by the insidious serpent who sneaked into Paradise, Eve then persuaded Adam to disobey their Creator and take a bite of an apple from the Tree of the Knowledge, which was strictly forbidden by the Lord. Thus, Adam and Eve brought the curse on the entire humankind.

Our ancestors have a unique place among the saints, which, certainly, led to their portrayal in many Russian icons. First of all, all saints, except the Blessed Virgin Mary who was brought to this world sinless, were born sinful but died virtuous. Adam and Eve, on the contrary, were created innocent; they were the ones who did not taste sin, suffering, and death but died after becoming sinners. That is why most examples of the Adam and Eve icon depict them at the period of their disgraceful fall – it is the most frequent plot of the iconography dedicated to our progenitors.

There are also variations of the Russian icons dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ, which depict the Savior bringing the righteous people who lived before His coming out of Hell, and the first among them are, of course, Adam and Eve because their life after the expulsion from Eden was godfearing and pious.

Often, Adam and Eve icon does not represent a separate holy image, but rather an essential part of the iconostasis. The characters are usually depicted on both sides of the central icon in the Forefathers’ tier. Some believers find it questionable that Adam and Eve, who were expelled from Paradise because of their disobedience to God and who plunged humanity into the captivity of death, are portrayed among the saints, faithful and virtuous people. However, the iconostasis is a sacred image of the history of salvation, where Adam and Eve, along with the entire human race descending from them, are shown redeemed thanks to the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of the Son of God. It is also no accident that this masterpiece of Russian icons art is crowned with an image of a cross, which reflects the miracle of the Savior’s victory.

The icon of the Last Judgment can also be considered a variation of the Adam and Eve icon. In this holy image, our ancestors are usually depicted kneeling before the Son of God surrounded by the Twelve Apostles. Such religious artworks imply that Adam and Eve, after all, returned to their Creator and beloved Father.

Photo credit: Flickr User Jim Forest / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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