January 31, 2020
An adherence to strongly held beliefs can make people think and behave in peculiar ways and get them tangled up in all sorts of peripheral issues that suddenly take on a great deal of significance. Early religious artists, for example, spent centuries wrestling with the intractable problem of whether to depict Adam and Eve with belly buttons or not. It’s a question that troubles theologians to this day but at least they can talk about it in metaphysical terms whereas artists have to choose whether to openly suggest that Adam and Eve were born rather than created, hiding the belly button completely or just going along with whatever and letting other people do the arguing. Many classical artists chose the latter although some chose to use a fig leaf to obscure both the genitalia and implied origins of their subjects.