From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The virgineum vultum is a mythological creature which combines the head of a young woman and the body of a serpent or lizard. The mixed creature derives from one of the medieval scholastic commentaries on Genesis by Peter Comestor, but is ultimately to be traced back to Bede and Vincent of Beauvais, in whose work it is first described.
In the visual arts, it is most famously depicted in the left panel of Hugo van der Goes's Fall of Man and Lamentation. There, it is a lizard-like, shimmering chimera, a demon that clings to the tree of life to keep itself upright. The similarity with the face of Eve is unmistakable.
- Virgineum vultum habens: the woman-headed serpent in art and literature from 1300 to 1700 (1981) by Nona Cecilia Flores
- "for Peter Comestor's statement that the Devil chose the shape of a serpent with a maiden's face (“elegit etiam quoddam genus serpentis virgineum vultum habens”). Peter seems to have been the first to use this idea in his Historia scholastica"--Satan (Harold Bloom)
List of images
- Bosch’s Paradise and Hell, left panel
- Michelangelo’s The Original Sin and Expulsion from Paradise detail from the Sistine Chapel ceiling
- Hugo Van Der Goes’s Fall of Man and Lamentation diptych,
- Fall of Man (Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry by the Limbourg brothers)