Bedford Master ca. 1380 – 1440

The Story of Adam and Eve

illumination (263 × 184 mm) — c. 1415-1430 Museum British Library, London

Bedford Master biography

This work is linked to Genesis 2:15

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This illumination shows the stories of Adam and Eve and of Cain and Abel. It starts bottom left with the creation of Adam. God gives him the breath of life and then takes him into the walled Garden of Eden.

There, sitting on a cloud of red angels, God tells Adam "to dress it and to keep it". In the next part Eve is created from one of Adam's ribs.

God shows them the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and tells them not to eat its fruits. But a snake makes them eat the apple anyway.

An infuriated God expels them from the Garden. The angel with the fiery sword who guards the gate is probably Uriel, an archangel according to some ancient texts. In the bottom right Adam is labouring on the land, and Eve is spinning.

In the top right their sons Cain and Abel make offerings to God. God only accepts Abel's offering, a sheep. Cain then kills his brother. God punishes Cain by letting him wander for the rest of his life (top).

Throughout the illumination God is shown with a flame and with two similar faces. It probably is the Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (the flame).

The construction with the water well is derived from a picture of Paradise made by the Van Limbourg brothers in the Duke of Berry's Très Riches Heures.

This is folio 14r from the Bedford Book of Hours.

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