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Marc Chagall’s Adam and Eve and The Forbidden Fruit

Marc Chagall’s Adam and Eve and The Forbidden Fruit builds upon Western biblical tradition and on art historical precedent in depicting mankind’s fall from grace. Coaxed by a serpent, Eve offers Adam forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. Neither the Jewish Torah, nor the Christian Old Testament specifies which fruit. Some scholars believe it is a grape, others that it is a fig, but regardless, the majority accept the apple as an appropriate stand-in, rich with symbolic meaning.

In painting, the use of the apple as symbol can be traced to Renaissance artists who appropriated elements of Greek mythology. Hercules retrieved the golden apples of the Hesperides, said to confer eternal youth, as his eleventh labor. Paris declared Aphrodite winner of a beauty contest by awarding her a golden apple in exchange for Helen of Troy whose kidnap would spark the Trojan War. While the apple is also associated with Aphrodite and with love, in biblical context it symbolizes the fall of man and original sin, loss of innocence, knowledge including sexual knowledge, and temptation.

Apple as a pejorative symbol is further reinforced by its Latin etymology: mālum is a noun and means “apple,” but change the accent on the first vowel and mălum becomes the adjective for “evil.”


“Adam and Eve with the forbidden fruit,” WIKIART, http://www.wikiart.org/en/marc-chagall/adam-and-eve-with-the-forbidden-fruit-1960#close , (10/30/14)