Adam and Eve banished from Paradise
Oil on canvas
190.5 x 283.5 cm
The composition, firmly rooted in the horizontal line of the river crossing the Garden of Eden and the vertical line of the tree of light on the left, is also balanced by the distribution of coloured swathes on the green background. Chagall portrays a Paradise thrown into disarray by Sin: birds with goat heads are flying away while others have been painted head down – joined by winged fish taking leave of the river.
The angel tasked with manifesting the divine anger, top middle, is pointing the road to exile out to Adam and Eve, who are leaving the painting via the right – just like in all the traditional depictions of the scene. Carried off by this dynamic and borne by a red cockerel – the symbol of vitality and fertility – the couple actually seem to be taking off towards humanity’s future. The small mother-and-child image in the bottom right-hand corner confirms this optimistic take on Sin.