God’s first act of creation was to command light into being: “Let there be light,” he said; “and God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:3–4). This key biblical moment is depicted as two separate yet simultaneous events in this first of 24 Old and New Testament scenes painted in 1383 by the artist known as Master Bertram of Minden, for the high altar of St. Peter’s Church in Hamburg, Germany.
At top right, the radiant light emerges from dark clouds. Master Bertram uses the Creator’s posture to signal the fact that God is literally speaking the light into being: God stands like an orator; his right hand is raised with the first two fingers extended in the classical gesture of speech. We know the light he creates is truly good because it bears God’s face.
At the same time as the light appears, the darkness—represented by a dark orb (is it Earth?) at lower right—falls.