Scala/Art Resource, NY

Knowing both good and evil, a contemplative Eve appears to emerge reluctantly from her shadowy niche in this life-sized panel from Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece, completed in 1432 for the Cathedral of Saint Bavo in Ghent, Belgium. Eve lightly fingers the fruit of the tree of knowledge, depicted by Eyck as an etrog, or citron, although the Bible does not specify the tree’s species. By choosing an etrog—a play on the Hebrew verb ragog, to have passion for—rather than the customary apple—in Latin malum, which also means evil—Eyck focuses on Eve’s sensuality, rather than her fall.

Above Eve appears the violent struggle between her sons Cain and Abel, painted in grisaille, or monotone, to look like a stone sculpture.