At the centre of this dense and richly symbolic exhibition is a small painting of Adam and Eve (the left panel of Hugo van Goes’ diptych Fall and Redemption of Man) standing in the Garden of Eden.
The detail is extraordinary, from the meticulously-painted leaves to the strangely sorrowful expression of a reptilian Satan. While everyone else conceals themselves, Eve, luminous with her white skin and round fertile belly, is – unusually for the 15th century – the undisputed focal point of the painting.
The excitable letters of Vincent van Gogh repeatedly refer to the OG mad genius.
Her expression is horrifyingly calm as she reaches out a long, thin arm to pluck a second apple from the tree, committing (wo)man’s first act of disobedience and unleashing eternal torment on the world.
Fall and Redemption of Man recurs throughout this somewhat sparse display of Hugo van der Goes’ surviving work, mirroring the life of the Flemish painter who famously succumbed to the mental disorder that saw him incarcerated in a monastery for the later half of his life.
Reproduced as wall texts, the excitable letters of Vincent van Gogh repeatedly refer to the OG mad genius. Despite the lack of existing work (they’ve fleshed out the exhibition with work from his followers), what they have, including ‘Death of the Virgin’, a late great work from 1480, is lavish in colour, sombre in tone and definitely worth seeing. ★★★★
- Gemäldegalerie, Matthäikirchplatz, Mitte, until Jul 16. Get more information here.