Home | Contact Us

Ford Madox Brown 1821 -1893


St Martin
Adam and Eve
The Crucifixion


The Pulpit



Adam and Eve Lancet Windows - by Ford Madox Brown

The cartoons at the bottom of the page show the artist and his second wife, Emma Hill, as Adam and Eve.

Brown himself described the two as being in attitudes of indolent repose. Adam is tickling a bear with his foot. This is both a pun and a symbol of the downfall of man. Adam is “bare” while the bear, as a wild animal, has symbolized cruelty and evil influence. In the Old Testament it is used to represent the Kingdom of Persia, which brought death and corruption into the world, and was finally destroyed by God (Daniel 7: 5).

Two bears are said to have appeared from the woods and eaten the children who mocked the prophet Elisha because of his baldness (II Kings 2: 24).

Bear cubs were believed to be born shapeless, their form being given to them by the mother bear. This legendary act became a symbol of Christianity, which reforms and regenerates heathen people. It is in this sense that a number of legends concerning the taming of a bear by a saint may be interpreted. Typical is the story of St. Euphemia, who, when thrown to the wild animals in the arena, was worshiped, rather than eaten, by the bear.

The red squirrel appearing eating an acorn on a branch above Adam's left arm is also symbolic of the devil, as the glowing colour of the squirrel’s fur were equated with the fires of hell. Also, the squirrel's lightning-fast turn of speed and destructive, tricky ways were considered further confirmation that this was indeed a creature of Satan.

Eve, however, cradles a bird thought to be a duck, and has an owl on her shoulder.  The duck is generally thought to be a symbol of freedom. They can walk on the earth and swim in the sea as humans do but they also have the ability to soar into the sky. Birds are free to roam to earth and the sky. Many cultures believe that they are a symbol of eternal life; the link between heaven and earth. The fact that Eve cradles the duck may represent that link has just been lost. Furthermore, she may be cradling the duck because it is injured – a symbol of fateful or deep sadness caused by erring offspring.

The owl has a variety of meanings, but in this instance it is most likely to symbolize Satan, the Prince of Darkness, because the owl hides in darkness and fears the light. As Satan deceives humanity, so the owl is said to trick other birds, causing them to fall into the snares set by hunters.

Its most ancient gift, however, is that of wisdom, and, with this meaning, it is sometimes shown with St. Jerome.

In another sense, the owl is an attribute of Christ, who sacrificed Himself to save mankind, 'To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death . . .' (Luke I: 79). This explains the presence of the owl in scenes of the Crucifixion.
The images portray Adam and Eve after the downfall of man as they are both clothed in leaves having become aware of their nakedness.

Both windows were donated by Miss Mary Craven at a cost of £100. Top of page

adamcartooneve cartoon