In this engraving, one of Drer's most celebrated images, the artist's studies on classical proportion culminate. In the early years of the century Drer devoted much time to the study of the Vitruvian canon of proportion, and there are many extant drawing studies of the nude drawn between 1500-4, including a considerable number of preparatory drawings for this print. The classical poses that he employed in Adam and Eve derive from the Apollo Belvedere and the Medici Venus. Dramatic treatment of the subject has evidently been sacrificed for a balanced composition, Drer therefore loading the scene with symbolic detail to enhance the narrative. Panofsky provides an interpretation of the iconographic features, as the artist's contemporaries would have understood them:
'They would have shared his delight in parallelling the tense relation between Adam and Eve to that between a mouse and a cat crouching to spring, and they would have appreciated the symbolism of what most of us would be apt to dismiss as "picturesque accessories". They would have understood that the mountain ash, which Adam still holds, signified the Tree of Life and that the same contrast exists between it and the forbidden fig tree as between the wise and benevolent parrot and the diabolical serpent; and the selection of the animals in the foreground would have reminded them of a widespread scholastic doctrine which connects the Fall of Man with the theory of the "four humours" or "temperaments".'
The image also represents the culmination of Drer's technical efforts, in the rendering of a mass of detail in richness of tones. This refining of the burin technique along these tonal lines is brought to its conclusion, again described by Panofsky:
'(...) The Fall of Man has always been deservedly famous for the splendour of a technique which does equal justice to the warm glow of human skin, to the chilly slipperiness of a snake, to the metallic undulations of locks and tresses, to the smooth, shaggy, downy or bristly quality of animals' coats, and to the twilight of a primeval forest.'