Bartolomé Reconsiders his “Creation of Eve”
By Johanna Skibsrud
Sometime, late in the fifteenth century,
stepped back, in order to more clearly
regard his recently completed
“Creation of Eve,” and realized he had made
a grave mistake.
He sat down next to the open window and
gazed out to where—
at the far limit of the landscape—across the
and slanted rooftops of the city, the spires
of a distant cathedral
pierced the sky.
There is always (he thought) that inevitable
where the visible is no longer split into
seen and unseen,
and the unseen simply drops away into a
If he could paint that. Not the woman
as she was,
or would have been, in the moment—or just
having “emerged” from the man
(as though she was, before even being
already the beginning of the idea of a
but emergency itself…
The way that she would have arrived,
utterly new, from what, beyond what can be
apprehended and named: “unseen,” “unknown,”
simply is that thing.
If he could paint that:
woman as landscape. But beyond both the
and idea of landscape.
Just: a blur of colour and form – a
indicating where line can no longer be
Woman, then, as all things; as the emergency
of every moment, arriving unaccountably
from some place beyond the imagined
limit of itself….
Here the Maestro’s mind began to wander;
it was difficult to think like this, in such
general terms. He began to feel restless.
He thought of love.
How love, too, was always,
at the same time, the emergence
and the dissolution of limit and form.
And so creation, the issue of love, was and
as he had so far been taught—be applied
simply, in layers;
it could not be surprised by a deft stroke
of the brush,
or an unsuspecting angle.
It needed to arrive unannounced and
of the hand of the artist who drew it there—
from his more or less discerning eye.
In the form of chance: a pure gift.
It needed to glance—suddenly, and without
off the surface of the painting—as light
glances off of
water, or as one density of air glances off
another, creating, as it does so, a current
So that was it (thought the Maestro). The
he had, in his depiction of the “Creation of
Eve,” missed it somehow.
It hadn’t happened yet.
He turned back to his painting, picked up
and held it for a breathless moment in the
He had missed nothing! Creation, itself, was
only just then occurring! Just about to
He painted out the woman.
Then he painted out the man.
In their place, he drew man and woman at
As best he could: so that it was impossible
tell any longer which form emerged from
and both and neither hesitated just as his
brush had hesitated, a moment ago, in the
And whether it was to comfort himself, or
because it was so, he thought that it was
somehow right—somehow just—that his
first attempt should exist beneath the next.
That his first, mistaken, effort, could
fully, or finally be erased…
Was not everything built, like that (he
in invisible layers? A record not of where
come from, but of the erasure of limits
imposed on what
one might, or could become?