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Creation of Eve, Temptation, and Expulsion,

Behind the Scenes

Creation of Eve, Temptation, and Expulsion

“The Creation of Eve, Temptation, and the Expulsion” (after Raphael) from the Vatican Loggia of Leo X, engraving, Francesco Villamena, Rome, c. 1600.

The Artist

The artist did not sign his full name, only the two initials “FV.” Among artists who produced series of prints from Raphael’s frescoes in the sixteenth century, one was named Francesco Villamena (1564–1624). Comparing the initial signature to other prints by Villamena, confirms the identity of the artist. The prints can be dated around 1600, when the artist is known to have been copying Raphael’s frescoes.  This was his last great artistic project before his death.

Question: How did other artists represent the Temptation of Adam & Eve?

Answer: http://jewishchristianlit.com/Topics/AdamNeve/


The Researchers 

Virginia Taylor majored in History and minored in Art History, receiving a B. A. in 2010. She is now working on a Masters in History at James Madison University. Kathryn Brown graduated with a major in Studio Art at James Madison University. They did the original research in the fall 2009, and wrote the catalog entry in City of Rome Exhibition Catalog.

 “The Creation of Eve, Temptation, and the Expulsion” (after Raphael) from the Vatican Loggia of Leo X, engraving, Francesco Villamena, Rome, c. 1600.  (Madison Art Collection 76. 1. 983-84-85)

            In the Creation of Eve, Temptation, and Expulsion engravings, the story of the fall of man seems to come to life. In the Creation, Eve stands on right side of the sleeping Adam, following the Bible, Genesis II: 18-24. In the Temptation, there is a lush garden where Eve passes the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil to Adam. The serpent looks at Adam with an almost serene gaze, as her snake-like body is wound around the tree. Eve stands proudly and seems confident in her demeanor as she grasps one of the tree branches. Adam crouches down to the lower right, eagerly reaching up and grasping the fruit, probably a fig, from his wife. They both seem unaware of the consequences of their actions. In the Expulsion, Adam and Eve are chased from the garden by an angel, and as Genesis III: 1-6 states, they eventually will pay a heavy price for their sin.[1]

            The High Renaissance source of these engravings is the “Raphael Bible,” which consists of fifty-two frescoes, mostly from the Old Testament, painted by Raphael and his workshop. Raphael came to Rome in 1508 because Pope Julius II had seen several sketches and was impressed. Pope Julius employed the young artist in the Vatican. While Raphael was working on The School of Athens in 1509-1510, Michelangelo was painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which was completed in 1512. Raphael was influenced by Michelangelo’s new style. When Leo X came to power in 1513, he asked Raphael to complete an unfinished loggia begun by Bramante, which was located on the second story of the Vatican palace.[2] Raphael’s plans included four frescoes underneath each of the thirteen arches, depicting scenes from the Old and New Testament. Raphael also designed the stuccowork on the ceiling and arches. This grotesque plasterwork imitated stucco decoration found at Nero’s palace. Such a combination of classical and Christian motifs was common in the High Renaissance. Raphael’s loggia decoration later influenced architecture from the Capitol in Washington D.C. to various other palaces and public buildings in France, Spain, Germany, and England.[3]

                Raphael’s three scenes are located in second vault, along with a fourth subject, The Labors of Man. The fresco depicting the Temptation reveals influence both from Masaccio and Michelangelo. Like the serpent in both Masaccio and Michelangelo’s renditions, Raphael represents a snake’s body with a female face. Unlike Michelangelo’s barren background, Raphael’s is full of natural greenery. Raphael’s figures are more graceful, tranquil in contrast to Masaccio’s figures, which show no emotion on their faces. In the Temptation, Raphael has Eve take a more active role, in contrast to Adam who takes the fruit in Michelangelo’s version of the scene in the Sistine Chapel. These frescoes were eventually were copied as engravings and mass-produced for the public.[4]

            The most important question regarding the Madison Art Collection prints is the identity of the engraver. Many artists made copies after the Raphael’s frescoes, but there were three likely candidates: Orazio Borgianni, Nicholas Chaperon, and Francesco Villamena. Borgianni produced the earliest copies of the Raphael Bible, but the rough drawn quality does not match the cleaner incised lines of the Madison Art Collection print. In his print, the initials “HB,” appear in the far right behind the figure of Adam along with the date 1615, and there is no inscription on the bottom border, as there is in the collection’s print. Chaperon’s engraving is closer in artistic quality to the one in the collection. However, the inscription is completely different from the university’s print. The Chaperon inscription is “Decepta musier a serpente tusi de fructa illius et comedit deditg uiro suo. Gen. III,” from Genesis III, accompanied by the initials R.V.I. to the left, and N.C.F. to the right.[5] The evidence for identifying the artist as Francesco Villamena is conclusive. The inscriptions on the Madison Art Collection print are the same as other engravings by Villamena in the Instituto Nazionale per la Grafica in Rome.[6] It states, “Serpenris sua su Adam, atqz fructum a Deo interdictum comedunt, Genes. III.”  This phrase from the Book of Genesis means that the serpent has persuaded Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. The initials “FV” also appear beneath the inscription, which was the artist’s abbreviation for his name, Francesco Villamena. The same initials appear in the Madison Art Collection prints and in Villamena’s engraving entitled Roasted Chestnuts in the British Museum, London.[7] Therefore, the prints can be attributed to Villamena and dated c.1600, when the artist is known to have been copying Raphael’s frescoes.[8]

            These engravings helped the Catholic Church regain the faith of their followers during the Counter-reformation.[9] After the invention of the printing press, European literacy grew rapidly.[10] However, there was still a large population who could not read. Picture bibles, such as the Biblia Pauperum, which was one of the earliest books printed in the 1460s, were filled with illustrations and limited text.[11] Villamena’s engravings served the same purpose and audience. The prints presented the traditional Christian theme of Adam and Eve in the idealized, classical form of the High Renaissance. Mass production of these engravings derived from Raphael’s loggia demonstrates the importance and significance his art over time. (Virginia Taylor & Katie Brown)

[1] Holy Bible, (Nashville: Broadman & Holdman ,1995), 2.

[2] Bernice F. Davidson, “The Landscapes of theVatican Logge from the Reign of Pope Julius III,” Art Bulletin. LXV (1983), 587-602.

[3] Nicole Dacos, The Loggia of Raphael: A Vatican Art Treasure, (New York: Abbeville Press Publishers, 2008), 308-11.

[4] Bernice Davidson, Raphael’s Bible: A Study of the Vatican Logge, (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1985), 50-111.

[5] G.B. Pezzini, S. Massari, and S.P. Valenti Rodin, Raphael Invenit: Stamped a Rafaello nelle Collezioni dell’Instituto Nazionale per la Grafica, (Rome: Edizioni Quaser di Severino Tognon, 1985), 402-3 and 416-17.

[6] Pezzini, Raphael Invenit, 416-417.

[7] Francesco Villamena, Roasted Chestnuts, ca. 1600, British Museum, London, http://www.britishmuseum.org. (accessed  October 23, 2009).

[8] Pezzini, Raphael Invenit, 412-13.

[9] John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe: From the Renaissance to the Age of Napoleon (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004), 122-127.

[10] Simon Eliot and Jonathan Rose (ed.), A Companion to the History of the Book (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2007), 247-257.

[11] Avril Henry, Biblia Pauperum (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 3-5.