About this artwork

The biblical ancestors of all humanity occupy the outermost panels of the upper register. They stand in niches which means that they are the only figures in the inside of the altarpiece who do not have the blue sky as their background. This serves to distinguish them from the heavenly figures. Yet they are included in that company because as the first sinners they will also be the first to be saved. They symbolise the whole of humanity which the Lamb will redeem from sin and death. Adam and Eve's serene gaze belies the texts which state that through their sin they brought death into the world. They are part of the static undramatic atmosphere of the entire painting. Note the detail of adam's foot which extends beyond the edge of the frame and Eve's fruit not an apple but a citrus fruit which may be an alludion to the bitterness of the Fall.

About the artist

Jan van Eyck was born around 1400 in the Limburg town of Maaseik. Around 1432 he settled in Bruges. There he had, until his death in 1441, a studio with a large number of employees. Van Eyck's representation of light and its effects on the visible world represented a fundamental innovation in art. He was the first to succeed in convincingly evoking a tangible reality in painting.More about Jan Van Eyck

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