Masaccio - The Expulsion from Paradise

by Alexandra Tuschka


From now on, nothing is simple anymore. Abandoned by God and bitterly punished, Adam and Eve leave the gates of heaven. The archangel Michael has already drawn his sword and executes God's command of expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden - a place full of abundance and love, but also a place of the unconscious. Since the Renaissance, the Fall was not only seen negatively, but also the fact that man is capable of reflection and conscious perception was considered an achievement.

Seduced by the serpent, Eve eats from the apple of knowledge (which is not further described in the Bible, but has become accepted as an apple in Western culture). Afterwards she hands the fruit to Adam, he also eats from it. When they realize they are naked and cover themselves, God knows they have broken his one commandment. Here he shows himself merciless. 


Not only the snake is punished and must henceforth crawl on the ground and speak with a forked tongue, but we humans also owe a lot to this event. The women get their children under pain, the men must earn their bread in the sweat of their face and the most important: we were hurled into the time. All of a sudden there are the first wrinkles, the body wears out and finally dies.


The fresco is part of the cyclical mural in Santa Maria del Carmine on scenes from the life of Peter. In this context, we also find Adam and Eve before this event in all their beauty. This contrast before-after is shown by Masacchio in the cycle with spatial distance, in Michelangelo, for example, it takes place much more directly and side by side. Painfully distorted and ashamed of their nakedness, the two leave the gate of paradise. Adam buries his face in his hands - a clear gesture of shame and guilt, which is still intuitively taken by people today, for example at court hearings. The leaves seen here were probably a later addition and have since been removed. 


Unfortunately, this sin is an original sin - all descendants of the first two human beings are occupied with this punishment and are redeemed from it only by Jesus on the cross. These correspondences are found in the concept of typology. Here we have the archetype (typos) of the Fall, which finds its fulfillment in the death of Jesus on the cross (antitypos). 


Masaccio - The Expulsion from Paradise

Fresco, 1425-1428, Santa Maria del Carmine, Cappella Brancacci in Florence