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Symbols of Adam and Eve in Western Painting


William H. Hunt once wrote "When language was not transcendental enough to complete the meaning of a revelation, symbols were relied upon for heavenly teaching, and familiar images, chosen from the known, were made to mirror the unknown spiritual truth." Until the 19th century  European art was mostly concerned  with religious subject matter. The story of Adam and Eve was a much loved theme.  Artists of all periods have used fruit and snakes as symbols of temptation and evil.

 A devious serpent in the garden often times depicted slithering around a tree represents Eve's temptation in the Garden of Eden. From the Bible - "Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made." Gen. 3:1-13

Tree, pomegranate of apple suggests the temptation of eve and the fall of man.

The Color Red is symbolic of Eve's transgression and subsequent fall from God's Holy Grace

Pomegranate -  Symbolizes Adam and Eves fall from grace and mans sinful nature.

Apple - Carnal pleasures and sin; sins of mankind, original sin; "forbidden fruit".

Fig -  Symbolizes loss of innocence and a fall from grace. Adam and Eve wore fig leaves when they first recognized their own nakedness.

Fig leaf - Adam and Eve used the leaves of the fig tree to fashion coverings for their nether regions when they realized they were naked. "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons." (Genesis 3:7)

The Meaning of Sacred Symbols in  Paintings. Most prominently featured  symbols and their meaning:

The  Serpent

Good Shepherd

Adam and Eve




Virgin Mary


The Anchor

The Apostles



The Cross

Architectural Elements


The Saints









Household Objects


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