How could we not open our Women’s Wednesday column if not with the very first woman, Eve? The myth of Eve was surely a heavy one for women through history, especially in Catholic medieval Europe; the First Woman is usually portrayed as no more than a temptress to Adam and considered the proof of (or the excuse for) the inferiority of women to men.
Boccaccio, however, offers us an unusually soft portrayal of Eve: in his description, the author praises Eve for her beauty and perfection (as a direct creation by the hands of God himself), all unknown to any other human after her. Moreover, the narration of the Original Sin mainly focuses on the Devil (here referred to as “the Enemy”) being jealous of Adam and Eve’s happiness, thus deceiving a naive woman with no evil intention.
Although the iconography has always mostly depicted the Devil as a snake, it is interesting to notice how some artists decided to portray the serpent as a dragon-like monster; the original Hebrew word, nachash (נחש), is in fact used in the Bible for both snakes and sea monsters like the Leviathan.
“Eve”, illumination from the manuscript “Cas des nobles hommes et femmes”, ms. Français 12420, f. 6v, 15h century, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Paris.