ALBRECHT DÜRER (1471-1528)
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ALBRECHT DÜRER (1471-1528)

Adam and Eve

ALBRECHT DÜRER (1471-1528)
Adam and Eve
engraving, 1504, on laid paper, watermark Bull's Head (M. 62), a very good Meder a impression of the third, final state, with good contrasts and clarity, the background rich and black, trimmed inside the platemark but retaining a fillet of blank paper outside the borderline, a few tiny, skilful repairs, a collector's mark verso faintly showing through recto, the usual horizontal central crease broken through in places and skilfully reinforced, generally in good condition
Sheet 247 x 192 mm.
John Pomeroy Townsend (1832-1898), New York (not in Lugt).
Bartsch, Meder, Hollstein 1; Schoch Mende Scherbaum 39
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Lot Essay

From the moment it was conceived, it is clear that Dürer intended Adam and Eve to be a work of great ambition and importance, and he took an unusual amount of care in its creation. More preparatory drawings survive for it than for any other print by Dürer, including a beautiful study of the two figures on a blackened background (Pierpont Morgan Library, New York; W. 333). It is also the only one of his prints to be signed with his full name and birthplace.

The entire composition is an image of duality and division and is laden with symbolic significance. The Tree of Knowledge separates Adam from Eve, and the image into two halves. Whilst Eve is associated with this tree, Adam grasps a branch of mountain ash, identified as the Tree of Life. The parrot and the serpent respectively symbolise wisdom and betrayal. The cat and mouse in the foreground form another pair of potential opposites, but, as the Fall has yet to occur, they sit peacefully together. The moose, the cow, the rabbit and the cat are associated respectively with the melancholic, the phlegmatic, the sanguine and the choleric temperament; the four humours which after the Fall came to rule over the human spirit, and made it subject to desire and sin. The mountain goat far in the background behind Eve is a traditional symbol of lust and damnation. It stands on the edge of the abyss, presaging the Fall to come.

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