Lilith 300 301 Sybille Sciamma

Kiki Smith, Lilith, 1994, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Kiki Smith, Lilith, 1994, Photo Ellen Page Wilson,  Metropolitan Museum of Art

Both scary and fascinating
the glass eyes of this bronze sculpture
by artist Kiki Smith
will probably give you a shiver of fear
her dark face like of a resurrected mummy
her body very much alive
in this disturbing crouching posture
she surprises you by her upside-down look
beautiful, enigmatic, maybe ready to attack

She embodies Lillith
Adam’s first wife who was created equal
refused to submit and obey
fled from Eden
and became a mad and cruel demon
luring men and snatching babies
– all this according to some Middle-Age tale
probably building on old figures of dark goddesses
and deep fears of women

As many I received both the sculpture
and the ancient myth
like a punch in my stomach
you shall be damned if you don’t obey
your freedom can only be malignant
your mere nature as a sensual being
makes you evil
you will be punished in your more precious power
that of giving birth

Kiki Smith’s Lilith
is archaic, powerful and frightening
exactly that which condemned women
through history and to this day
to be cast aside and belittled

« From About AD 700, Jewish mystical texts identify Lilith as the first wife of Adam, created by God at the same time from the same earth. Asserting equality with her husband, she refused to lie beneath him during sex and fled Eden rather than subordinate herself to him. Long vilified for such defiance, she has more recently been celebrated as an icon of female independence. »

© Kiki Smith, courtesy Pace Gallery, in British Museum, Feminine Power: the divine to the demonic, exhibition 2022