In the Beginning

The Creation of Adam, Michelangelo, 1510

 

“Ever since those wondrous days of Creation
our Lord God sleeps: we are His sleep.
And He accepted this in His indulgence,
resigned to rest among the distant stars.

Our actions stopped Him from reacting,
for His fist-tight hand is numbed by sleep,
and the times brought in the age of heroes
during which our dark hearts plundered Him.

Sometimes He appears as if tormented,
and His body jerks as if plagued by pain;
but these spells are always outweighed by the
number of His countless other worlds.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

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Adam

Adam, Auguste Rodin, 1880-81.

Rodin drew his inspiration directly from the section of the Michelangelo’s fresco entitled The Creation of Adam

 

“High above he stands, beside the many
saintly figures fronting the cathedral’s
gothic tympanum, close by the window
called the rose, and looks astonished at his

own deification which placed him there.
Erect and proud he smiles, and quite enjoys
this feat of his survival, willed by choice.

As labourer in the fields he made his start
and through his efforts brought to full fruition
the garden God named Eden. But where was
the hidden path that led to the New Earth?

God would not listen to his endless pleas.
Instead, He threatened him that he shall die.
Yet Adam stood his ground: Eve shall give birth.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

Eve

Rodin—The Eve, photo by Edward Steichen, 1907.

Steichen recorded the aging sculptor clothed in timeless drapery and sitting at the feet of the plaster model of his Eve, a soft-focus image that appears almost as the sculptor’s dream.

 

EVE

“Look how she stands, high on the steep facade
of the cathedral, near the window-rose,
simply, holding in her hand the apple,
judged for all time as the guiltless-guilty

for the growing fruit her body held
which she gave birth to after parting from
the circle of eternities. She left
to face the strange New Earth, so young in years.

Oh, how she would have loved to stay a little
longer in that enchanted garden, where
the peaceful gentle beasts grazed side by side.

But Adam was resolved to leave, to go
out into this New Earth, and facing death
she followed him. God she had hardly known.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

The Symbol of All Creation

“The hand of Rodin worked not as the hand of a sculptor works, but as the work of Elan Vital. The Hand of God is his own hand.”
George Bernard Shaw

 

Pierre and Jacques de Wissant, Right Hand, Auguste Rodin, 1885-86

 

Rodin worked on the hands of certain Burghers of Calais separately so as to heighten their power of expression. Although he used the same left and right hands for the two brothers, Pierre and Jacques de Wissant, the effect obtained on each figure was very different. Pierre de Wissant’s right hand sweeps the gesture upwards, as a sign of abnegation. Jacques de Wissant’s hand is drawn back towards his face, implying doubt and questioning. Isolated from the figure, the hand forms a work in its own right, not just a mere study or fragment.

 

The Hand of God, designed in 1898

 

When Rodin decided to show it standing upright on a wooden plinth, he turned it into an independent exhibit, with a value all of its own. This is also the hand Rodin would use in The Hand of God , placing inside it the tiny figures of Adam and Eve who seem to emerge out of the dust. This work became the symbol of all creation.

Pushing the Button

“I always wanted to draw and paint. I had no literary ambition: I aspired to be a Michael Angelo, not a Shakespear (sic). But I could not draw well enough to satisfy myself; and the instruction I could get was worse than useless. So when dry plates and push buttons came into the market I bought a box camera and began pushing the button”

George Bernard Shaw
(Reply to Helmut Gernsheim as to why he had taken up photography)

 

Self-portrait (young man) in Chair, George Bernard Shaw, c. 1904