Besides being one of the most prolific printmakers of his time, Johannes Wierix was also an exceptionally gifted draughtsman. His drawings are often made on vellum, allowing the artist to draw with the greatest precision. While these miniature-like drawings would have been detailed enough to be translated into prints, most of them were made as works of art in their own right. As with his engravings, the artist often worked in series and he sometimes repeated the same theme in several works.
The Fall of Man was treated in three distinct sets by Wierix: one of 20 sheets, datable to 1607-1609, from the collection of Richard Feigen, exhibited in 1990; a second of 19 sheets, two of which are dated 1606, in the British Museum; and a third group, datable around 1606, which has been dispersed. Dispersed by 1835, six are now in the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett, one is in the Klassik Stiftung Weimar (inv. KK 4615), and nine were with Katrin Bellinger, London, in 1993. These last drawings come from a group of thirteen sheets from the Adalbert von Lanna collection, sold at Cassirer, Berlin, 25-26 November 1930, lots 106-118. It has been suggested that the present sheet corresponds with lot 113 in that sale, although it does not carry von Lanna's collectors mark.
The drawings from the various series often differ only in details, and the present drawing is indeed particularly close to the corresponding scene in the British Museum (inv. 1848,0212.94). That sheet is signed on a tablet at the bottom of the page and the Bonna sheet has a similar tablet, but does not carry the artist’s signature (it appears that there was once an inscription which has been erased). Other closely related sheets are in a Belgian private collection (C. Kruyfhooft, op. cit., no. 18, ill.), and the Muzeum Ksiazat Czartoryskich, Kraków (inv. MNK XV-Rr. 1936).
For these series, Wierix drew inspiration from a wealth of Northern and Italian prints. He was familiar with Albrecht Dürer’s engraving
of the subject (of which he made a copy when only 17 years old), but prints by Hans Baldung Grien and Lucas van Leyden may also have served as an inspiration.