"Adam and Eve" by Albrecht Dürer


Published by Gazette Drouot International

An authentic illustration of the humanist revolution in Europe, this famous and rare engraving is the 3rd and last print of "Adam and Eve" by Albrecht Dürer - which is characteristic of Dürer's expressive technique. Find it at Tessier Sarrou on June 23rd.


Albrecht DÜRER (1471-1528)
Adam and Eve (or The Fall of Man), 1504
Copper engraving with burin
248 x 191 mm
Superb proof cut at the edge of the square line Ox-head watermark with Triangle and Flower (M. 62) Ref. Bartsch 1, Meder 1, III a One short tear skilfully restored at lower left Slightly reinforced fold at upper right corner (invisible on recto) Mounted under mat with adhesive strip on verso Watermark visible on recto on Adam's face

Provenance : acquired from Guy Prouté in the early 1960s and since by descent

Adam and Eve stands out in Dürer's printed work as one of his most complex images, and illustrates all the German engraver's technical virtuosity. The artist "reinvented" this Adam and Eve for his Renaissance audience, physically and temporally transporting the couple from the Garden of Eden to a wild Germanic forest. Against this ominous backdrop of impenetrable trees and foliage, the bodies seem surprisingly at ease in their nakedness. In contrapposto, they recall the recently discovered classical statues of Venus and Apollo from the Belvedere, around the time of Dürer's first Italian sojourn. The manner in which Dürer composed his engraving has been widely studied, and the interpretations that have been made are innumerable. Between the two figures, the Tree of Knowledge provides a clear balance: while on the right, Eve's hand approaches the forbidden fruit, Adam's, clinging to a branch of the Tree of Life, draws attention to the left. In this precise composition, the demanding rules of geometry seem to preoccupy the artist to the utmost. Moreover, Dürer has judiciously arranged flora and fauna throughout his composition, creating a balance that is both physical and allegorical. The animals chosen by Dürer to populate his Eden are associated with the four "moods", or human temperaments, that fascinated his peers. The stag emerging from the trees is associated with melancholy, while the robust ox on the right represents the phlegmatic. The rabbit behind Eve symbolizes the sanguine, while the cat is associated with the choleric. The parrot above symbolizes wisdom, Eve's snake betrayal. Although this humanist philosophy was widely debated among the artist's contemporaries, all could agree that the goat staggering on the cliff was an image of lust and unhappiness, a sign of the Fall to come. Between the couple's feet, a cat and a mouse coexist harmoniously, blissfully unaware of their relationship as predator and prey. As soon as Eve accepts the serpent's offering, this balance will be destroyed. Let's appreciate Dürer's attention to the smallest details, from the closest to the furthest plane, from the mouse's delicate whiskers to the precise lines of the goat balancing on its rock. The fascinating variety of materials and surfaces he depicts: hair, feathers, fur, snakeskin, bark, leaves and rocks... This ambitious work, the only one of his prints to bear his full name - ALBERT DVRER NORICUS FACIEBAT 1504 - is a masterpiece of his oeuvre. Certainly destined for the Italian market, Dürer demonstrated his virtuosity, but also his commercial talent for attracting commissions. This absolute masterpiece, which represents the first culmination of the artist's research into anatomical proportions before his second Italian trip, is one of Dürer's most famous engravings, but also one of the most reproduced and therefore most familiar images of the Fall of Man. There are three states of this subject, plus several trial proofs in the British Museum in London and the Albertina Museum in Vienna, as well as numerous preparatory drawings. Richer in contrast than the one preserved at the BNF, our engraving, a very fine Meder impression of the third state (final state III.a), is imbued with astonishing clarity and nuance, the depths of the forest being as rich as the luminosity and velvety softness of the naked bodies. Extremely rare on the international market, a plate of this quality is a first for the French market in decades.