What did the Beginning look like? Questions about the creation of the world have transfixed cultures throughout the ages. For a number of religious groups, answers to these questions reside in the Bible. In early modern Europe (1500–1800), however, vigorous debates arose about the description of Paradise found in the Book of Genesis in light of a rapidly changing worldview shaped by exploration and encounters with never-before-seen peoples, animals, birds, and insects in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. How was it possible to reconcile the scriptural account of the world’s origin with these discoveries?
Featuring 12 works from The Huntington’s permanent collections, along with a number of rare drawings on loan from the J. Paul Getty Museum, this installation explores the profound importance of the biblical Creation narrative in early modern visual culture, as well as the diversity of its depiction. The engravings, etchings, and drawings on display capture the enduring artistic fascination with the theme of mankind’s origins, from depictions by 16th-century printmakers trying to show Paradise in all its idealized and diverse beauty to William Blake’s 19th-century vision of Paradise forever lost to mankind.