Friday, August 22, 2008

More on Mattthew Skenandore's Eve's Dream: Eat a Peach

Mattthew Skenandore
Eve's Dream: Eat a Peach (1990)
Paradise Lost Series

(Image: Courtesy of Mattthew Skenandore)

On August 12, 2008, I posted on my serendipitous encounter with the Paradise Lost art series painted by Mattthew Skenandore: Eve's Dream: Eat a Peach.

Mattthew read my blog entry and posted a couple of comments. Here's the first comment:
Thank you for posting my painting, and for the e-mail regarding Terrence Lindall. I am sending you a larger version of Eve's Dream should you care to post it. This painting is one of thirteen oils painted in 1990-91 and measures 4ft x 5 ft, illustrating John Milton's epic.
In the second comment, he added:
By the way, my thoughts on the peach were inspired the 'downy' reference and also by the idea of Eve having an auto-erotic hypnogogic fantasy (we are all adults here). The peach is the paranoid-critical image representing her genitalia feminina externa.
I'm not certain that we are all adults here, but as one can see from the image posted above, there's nothing pornographic -- or even sexually explicit -- about the painting, so I think that it's safe to post on my 'family' blog.

Eve's Dream refers primarily to Paradise Lost 5.28-95, in which Eve relates to Adam her dream of having been offered the forbidden fruit by an angelic being standing near the Tree of Knowledge:
And as I wondring lookt, beside it stood
One shap'd and wing'd like one of those from Heav'n
By us oft seen; his dewie locks distill'd
Ambrosia (PL 5.54-57)

[Thomas H. Luxon, ed. The Milton Reading Room, August 2008.]
The word "ambrosia" is here used to describe this attractive being -- who is actually Satan disguised as a angel of light -- and it has the effect of identifying the tempting angel with the fruit itself, for in Paradise Lost 9.850-852, which is also where Skenandore encountered the "downy" reference, we find the fruit's odor ambrosial:
. . . in her hand
A bough of fairest fruit that downie smil'd,
New gatherd, and ambrosial smell diffus'd. (PL 9.850-852)

[Thomas H. Luxon, ed. The Milton Reading Room, August 2008.]
Since Eve has already partly confused Satan's voice in the dream with the voice of her husband, Adam (PL 5.35-48), we can understand that Skenandore has reason for portraying Eve's tempting dream as an erotic one. As Robert Appelbaum has shown in his article "Eve's and Adam's "Apple": Horticulture, Taste, and the Flesh of the Forbidden Fruit in Paradise Lost" (Milton Quarterly, Volume 36, Issue 4, pages 221-239), Medieval and Renaissance art often portrayed the eating of the forbidden fruit as equivalent to a sexual seduction, so Skenandore is in good company in his aesthetic rendering of Eve's dream.

In my response to Skenandore's comments, I remarked:
Concerning "downy," by the way, you and Appelbaum seem to have responded to the same line in Milton.
In an email to me, Skenandore sent the image that I've posted above -- previously posted, but larger here -- and explained:
The painting Eve's dream I interpreted as Eve being seduced by Lucifer and the use of hallucinogenic fruit to show her flight etc.
Milton also seems to attribute some sort of mind-altering power to the forbidden fruit, for he describes Eve and Adam after eating it as though they were high on wine (cf. PL 9.792-793, 1007-1009).

Just for the record, for those interested in this Paradise Lost series, in his email, Skenandore added:
It was a fascinating project and some of the paintings were more or less successful nterpretations of Milton's epic. I used the pregnancy of my wife and the birth of our son to sort of inform the paintings. Using the process as metaphor that is heaven within the womb . . . the lamentation of Eve as birth and so on.
Like Wordsworth, then, perhaps Skenandore sees birth as "a sleep and a forgetting" -- a fall, if you will.

But I'll leave that to the art critics to determine.

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At 5:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting comments on the fruit, and Satan's appearance. Here he comes in the form of an angel....I wonder if poets and artists ever consider the biblical account, or is that too mundane for their intellectual and visual pursuits?
It is said that in the springtime man's fancy turns to love...or something to that effect. It seems that some people's fancy turns to other things.

At 6:50 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran, there's no doubt that John Milton considered the biblical account, and he knew the Bible far better than most of us, for he could read it in the original Greek and Hebrew.

Oftentimes, poets and artists -- especially those of the Middle Ages and Renaissance -- aren't rejecting the literal account but interpreting its meaning.

One would need to look at a poet or artist in particular before drawing conclusions, of course.

As for Mattthew Skenandore's interpretation, it follows partly from Milton's presentation . . . but one could probably safely conclude that the literal biblical story isn't foremost here.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seem to recall a "sort of" complaint from a nephew(?) being taken on a fishing trip and suddenly finding himself abandoned by his chaperone. That "chaperone" in reply mentioned something about having "something else he was considering."

That (guessed) nephew didn't specifically mention as to whether the abandonment occurred in a specific season.

Perhaps the "chaperone" will re-visit and expand on whether people's fancy does indeed turn to other things. Poets and artists notwithstanding.


At 1:37 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I fancy that would have been Nephew Bill.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Jeffery,

I was wanting to keep any names (especially any particular chaperone's identity-among friends) my sole point was that, given the chaperones' long-ago abandonment: and the way things seem to have turned out... perhaps the query might deserve a bit of reflection?

You've not observed that my comments have been or are as obtuse as you, in times past, did on so many occasions. Have I, in this instance supplied enough so that I need not go in to renew my certification?


At 4:53 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I've simply accepted that I'm the obtuse one.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back in those days as a young man, the fancy turned to love in all four seasons. With this concession, would anyone else care to make their confession?

At 9:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Consider it done.

But, with the passing of some time, together with some lessening of, well faculties I suppose might suffice (but that isn't precisely the word I was looking for).

I find myself concentrating more on other sorts of "pursuits."


At 10:32 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Such as the pursuit of happiness? . . . a revolutionary idea.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elder brother Woodrow told me that in youth we squander health in search of wealth, and in old age we squander wealth in search of health.
Our values do change with age.
I think of the daily I ask myself, "Now what did I come here--after?"
And another question -- how did this blog degenerate from quotes of Milton and others? Senility perhaps?

At 5:09 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran, I blog for fun. Sometimes, I have fun quoting Milton; other times, quoting hillbilly uncles...

Jeffery Hodges

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