Eve, in “Eve, the Serpent and Death,” is not wearing a fig leaf. Which is why we asked the designer to crop the painting, right at Eve’s relatively chaste waist. The full painting, by the German artist Hans Baldung Grien, shows Eve from head to toe, and in great detail. So our question to you is, Should we have printed the whole thing?
When we met to select photos to accompany the article, we all agreed that this painting of “Eve, the Serpent and Death” (c. 1510–1512) beautifully illustrated the article: Everything about it reminds us of the portrait of Eve found in the pseudepigrapha: Her sidelong glance, her suggestive smile, her openly sexual pose, her apparent complicity with Death and the serpent: Caught in a danse macabre, Eve grasps the serpent’s tail while Death holds her arm. Clearly this is the sexual temptress who, according to the pseudepigrapha, introduced sin and death to the world.
Indeed, in some ways the painting is an even more accurate illustration of the pseudepigrapha than the artist might have realized: The pseudepigraphical Apocalypse of Moses describes Eve, the serpent and the devil—three figures—together in the Garden. Hans Baldung Grien paints Eve, the serpent and a rather devilish Death.
But we weren’t sure how BR readers would react to this painting. Would some be offended? Would they be concerned about their children seeing it? (Granted, BR is aimed at adults, but is it an adult magazine?) But by printing only a detail, would we damage the integrity of this work of art? Is this sort of censorship insulting to our readers? But then again, when the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa, published a slim catalogue on the painting, they, too, opted to crop the painting on the front cover (the full version appeared only on the pamphlet’s back flap). And what about Michelangelo’s “Temptation,” printed at right? Is it acceptable to publish simply because it’s the work of the greatest painter of all time?
So please, write and let us know: When the artist hasn’t provided a fig leaf, what should we do?
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