Friday, March 6, 2009

Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve, 1504
Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528)
Engraving; 9 7/8 x 7 7/8 in. (25.1 x 20 cm)
Fletcher Fund, 1919 (19.73.1)

This print shows Durer's attention to ideal human proportions in his figures. They are most likely based on Roman copies of Greek sculptures he may have seen in Italy. The sculptural attributes of the figures pop out of the image. While Durer's earlier works were woodcuts which he most likely did not cut himself, Adam and Eve and later works are engravings which he mastered through experimenting with cutting the plates.

Durer's representation of Adam and Eve is rich with symbolism, as he filled the landscape with references to medieval theory of the four human temperaments. The melancholy elk, choleric cat, phlegmatic ox and the sensual rabbit were not let loose until Adam and Eve disobeyed God and became vulnerable. In addition, the mouse is a symbol of Satan and the parrot may symbolize false wisdom (Stokstad (2002) 718). Note the very prominent signature on the placard, Durer was very proud of this engraving, and no surprise, as the master engraver rocked the early 16th century with his images and still holds his own today. If you've never seen a Durer in person, try to remedy the situation. I'd also recommend checking out more German work of the late 15th - early 16th century.

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