Albrecht Dürer (German, Nuremberg 1471 - 1528 Nuremberg)
The Fall of Man (Adam and Eve)
B. 1; Dodgson 39 iv/v; Meder 1 ii a; Panofsky 108, 1504
Inscribed and dated in plate, on cartellino at upper left 1
9 3/4 x 7 9/16 in. (24.9 x 19.2 cm)
Gift of the Max Kade Foundation, 1967
Dürer's magnificent engraving of The Fall of Man abounds with symbolic details that enrich the familiar biblical narrative. The artist was even more concerned, however, with using the figures of Adam and Eve as vehicles for demonstrating the ideal classical proportions of the human form.
The enormously influential Fall of Man (Adam and Eve) is the only print to which Dürer signed his name in full, indicating the importance he placed on this work in his own oeuvre. The static, almost iconic grandeur of the image is the result of Dürer's preoccupation with conveying not merely the drama of the biblical narrative, but also the ideal proportions of the human form. Throughout his career Dürer was fascinated with ideal form in the human figure; his systematic study culminated in Bücher von menschlicher Proportion (1528), a theoretical treatise written towards the end of his life and published in the year of his death. 2 The nearly symmetrical frontal poses of Adam and Eve in The Fall of Man were carefully calculated to demonstrate idealized, canonical proportions of the nude to a Northern audience unfamiliar with classical norms of beauty. Both the proportions and the graceful contrapposto attitude of the figures were inspired by such famous Greek statues as the Apollo Belvedere and the Medici Venus. 3
Preparatory drawings show that Dürer originally conceived the figures of Adam and Eve, which in the final composition are almost entirely self-contained, as two separate engravings of the "perfect male" and "perfect female." 4 Perhaps directly inspired by an engraving of Apollo and Diana by the Venetian artist Jacopo de'Barbari (ca. 1560/70- before July 1516), Dürer experimented with incorporating the two figures in a single composition, without compromising his attention to ideal form. 5 The ultimate transformation of these classical and mythological sources into the biblical forms of Adam and Eve indicates Dürer's belief in the divine origin of the classical canon of human proportions; the religious--as opposed to secular--presentation, moreover, rendered the nude figures more acceptable to his German public.
The figures are set off before a dense, verdant woodland filled with a wealth of plants and animals. Erwin Panofsky was the first to decipher the complex and inventive symbolic program contained in Dürer's engraving, which constitutes a learned gloss on a traditional biblical theme. 6 With his right hand, Adam grasps a mountain ash, signifying the Tree of Life; this is contrasted with the Tree of Knowledge, represented by the fig tree at the center of the composition. Similarly, the diabolical and seductive serpent depositing the forbidden fruit in Eve's hand is opposed by the parrot, which symbolizes both wisdom and discernment, and the virgin birth of Christ. 7
The cat and mouse in the foreground--predator and innocent prey--summarize the relationship between the two human protagonists. Perched on a distant cliff at the upper right is an ibex, or goat, a traditional symbol for the unbelieving, and an apt metaphor for the first humans to break a divine commandment. The elk, bull, rabbit, and cat embody the four humors, or temperaments: the melancholic, the phlegmatic, the sanguine, and the choleric. According to medieval doctrine formulated in the twelfth century, the perfect equilibrium of these humors in the human body was upset after the Fall, causing one or the other to predominate and make man both mortal and subject to vice. Baser animals like those gathered in Dürer's composition, on the other hand, were inherently mortal and vicious from the outset.
Dürer's engraving of The Fall of Man has been described as "Dürer's banner as a printmaker." 8 A series of preparatory drawings for the figures and animals reveal the artist's intense investigation of form and narrative, and document the genesis of this composition more thoroughly than any of his other prints. 9 Two different states of proofs from the unfinished copper plate further elucidate Dürer's process. 10 In these early proofs, portions of the composition, such as the background, are fully worked up, while the figures remain undone, indicating that the entire design was completed before work on the plate was begun. The sureness of the preliminary outline also suggests that the design was drawn directly onto the plate or traced from a drawing, rather than sketched freehand with the drypoint needle. The relatively deeply engraved lines resulted in graphic richness and strength of line, and permitted a larger edition of high-quality impressions.
M. E. Wieseman
Born in Nuremberg in 1471, Albrecht Dürer was the son of the goldsmith Albrecht Dürer the Elder (1427-1502); his godfather, Anton Koberger, was the leading German publisher of his day. The young Dürer trained with his father, then was apprenticed to Michel Wolgemut, a painter and designer of woodcuts, from 1486 to 1489. Between 1490 and 1494, Dürer traveled through Germany and Switzerland; he visited Venice and other cities in Italy from autumn 1494 to spring 1495, then returned to settle in Nuremberg. He visited Italy again between 1505 and 1507. In 1509, Dürer purchased a house in Nuremberg and became a member of the Greater Council, marks of his increased prosperity and social standing. Dürer received commissions for several projects from the Emperor Maximilian I, who granted the artist an annuity in 1515. This honor was continued by hiss successor, Charles V. After Maximilian's death in 1519, Dürer's activities in the Netherlands in 1520-21 are described in a detailed travel diary; towards the end of his life he also wrote theoretical treatises on proportion ( Underweysung der Messung, 1525; Bücher von menschlicher Proportion, 1528) and fortifications (Befestigungslehre, 1527).
Prolific and highly original, Dürer produced paintings, drawings, engravings, etchings, woodcuts, and drypoints with equal facility and technical brilliance. His international reputation was primarily the result of his activity as an engraver and woodcut designer, however. His early training as a goldsmith and metal engraver focused his attention on the untapped artistic potential of the printed image; his knowledge of publishing fostered an awareness of the wide public audience for prints. Dürer endowed traditional devotional images with superior artistry, transforming them from textual accompaniments and objects of everyday use to independent works of art suitable for collecting.
Meder, Joseph. Dürer-Katalog, ein Handbuch über Dürers Stiche, Radierungen, Holzschnitte, deren Zustände, Ausgeben und Wasserzeichen. Vienna, 1932.
Winkler, Friedrich. Die Zeichnungen Albrecht Dürers. 4 vols. Berlin, 1936-39.
Panofsky, Erwin. The Life and Art of Albrecht Dürer. 4th ed. Princeton, 1955.
The Writings of Albrecht Dürer. Translated by William M. Conway. London, 1958.
Anzelewsky, Fedja. Albrecht Dürer: Das malerische Werk. Berlin, 1971.
Strauss, Walter L. The Complete Drawings of Albrecht Dürer. 6 vols. New York, 1974.
Hutchison, Jane Campbell. Albrecht Dürer: A Biography. Princeton, 1990.
Collection H. H. Benedict, New York (Lugt 2936)
Collection D. Keppeler, New York
Collection Max Kade (1882-1967) (Lugt 1561)
Gift of the Max Kade Foundation, 1967
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, Graphische Sammlung, 1963-64. Sammlung Max Kade. (Also shown at Munich, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung.) Cat. no. 37.
The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1969-70. Rembrandt's Biblical Etchings: Renaissance Precedents and Baroque Inventions. 14 October - 4 January. No cat.
Sammlung Max Kade. Exh. cat., Graphische Sammlung, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, and Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich, 1963-64, p. 21, cat. no. 37.
Stechow, Wolfgang. "Seventeen Great Prints: A Gift of the Max Kade Foundation." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 25, no. 1 (Fall 1967), p. 5.
Bartsch, Adam. Le Peintre-graveur. Vol. 7. Vienna, 1808. B. 1.
Dodgson, Campbell. Albrecht Dürer, Engravings and Etchings. London, 1926; reprint New York, 1967. Dodgson 39.
Meder, Joseph. Dürer-Katalog, ein Handbuch über Dürers Stiche, Radierungen, Holzschnitte, deren Zustände, Ausgeben und Wasserzeichen. Vienna, 1932. Meder 1.
Panofsky, Erwin. Albrecht Dürer. Vol. 2. London and Princeton, 1943; rev. ed., 1948. Panofsky 108.
Hollstein, F. W. H. German Engravings, Etchings, and Woodcuts. Edited by Karel G. Boon. Vol. 7. Amsterdam, 1962. H. 1.
General Literature (mentioning print but not this impression)
Dodgson, Campbell. Albrecht Dürer, Engravings and Etchings. London, 1926; reprint New York, 1967, pp. 51-55.
Winkler, Friedrich. Die Zeichnungen Albrecht Dürers. Vol. 2. Berlin, 1936, pp. 57-59 and 106-7, under cat. nos. 333-36 and 421-22.
Panofsky, Erwin. Albrecht Dürer. Vol. 1. London and Princeton, 1943; rev. ed. 1948, pp. 84-87, cat. no. 108.
Reed, Sue W. In Albrecht Dürer, Master Printmaker. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1971-72, pp. 115-18, cat. nos. 84-85.
Albrecht Dürer 1471-1971. Exh. cat., Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, 1971, p. 249, cat. no. 484.
Levenson, Jay A. In Dürer in America: His Graphic Work. Edited by Charles W. Talbot. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1971, pp. 131-32, cat. no. 30.
Strauss, Walter L. Albrecht Dürer Intaglio Prints: Engravings, Etchings & Drypoints. New York, 1975, pp. 72-74, cat. no. 42.
von Wilckens, Leonie, and Peter Strieder, eds. Vorbild Dürer. Kupferstiche und Holzschnitte Albrecht Dürers im Spiegel der europäischen
Druckgraphik des 16. Jahrhunderts. Exh. cat., Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, 1978, under cat. nos. 98, 102-3.
Sixteenth Century German Artists. Albrecht Dürer (Commentary). In The Illustrated Bartsch. Edited by Walter L. Strauss. Vol. 10. New York, 1981, pp. 10-14, no. 1.
Schoch, Rainer. In Gothic and Renaissance Art in Nuremberg 1300-1550. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1986, pp. 293-95.
Koerner, Joseph Leo. The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art. Chicago, 1993, pp. 187-202.
This is a very fine, richly inked, and deeply contrasted impression of Meder state 2a, showing the corrected numeral "5" in the date, and before the scratch in the plate towards Eve's left knee. The sheet has been trimmed on all four sides to the edge of the printed image; narrow strips of paper have been adhered to the verso of the sheet to form a false margin. There are a few small, isolated retouchings within the image: below Adam's proper left knee, on the tree trunk at Adam's proper right, and in the upper left corner of the sheet. The watermark is a Bull's Head with Flower and Triangle. 11
1. ALBERTUS/DVRER/NORICVS/FACIEBAT/1504 (Albrecht Dürer of Nuremberg made [this], 1504)
2. On Dürer's interest in human form see Ludwig Justi, Konstruierte Figuren und Köpfe unter den Werken Albrecht Dürers (Leipzig, 1902), esp. pp. 59-63; Erwin Panofsky, Albrecht Dürer, vol. 1 (London and Princeton, 1943; rev. ed. 1948), esp. pp. 260-70; Wulf Schadendorf, "Das Werk: Die Konstruierte und proportionierte Figur," in Albrecht Dürer 1471-1971 (exh. cat., Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, 1971), pp. 238-52; and Joseph Leo Koerner, The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art (Chicago, 1993), pp. 187-202.
3. The Apollo Belvedere was excavated in Rome in about 1496; Dürer would have known the statue through intermediary drawings. See Erwin Panofsky, "Albrecht Dürer and Classical Antiquity," in Meaning in the Visual Arts (Garden City, N.Y., 1955), pp. 249-55; and more recently, Joseph Leo Koerner, The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art (Chicago, 1993), p. 192; and John Rowlands, Drawings by German Artists and Artists from German Speaking Regions of Europe in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, vol. 1 (London, 1993), pp. 74-75.
4. See the drawings listed in note 9 below. The drawing in The Pierpont Morgan Library is actually composed of two separate drawings trimmed and pasted together to form a single composition; see Jay A. Levenson, in Dürer in America: His Graphic Work (exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C., [New York and London, 1971]), pp. 50-52, cat. no. XII.
5. The Illustrated Bartsch 13 (New York, 1981), p. 270, no. B.16. Barbari is also credited with introducing Dürer to the Vitruvian system of human proportions. Dürer probably met Barbari in Venice in 1494-95, and the Italian visited Nuremberg in 1500. For Barbari's influence on Dürer, see Erwin Panofsky, "Dürers Darstellungen des Apollo und ihr Verhältnis zu Barbari," Jahrbuch der preussischen Kunstsammlungen 41 (1920), pp. 359-77.
7. Erwin Panofsky, Albrecht Dürer, vol. 1 (London and Princeton, 1943; rev. ed. 1948), pp. 84-85; for a revised interpretation of the parrot, see idem, in Problems in Titian, Mostly Iconographic (New York, 1969), pp. 28-29.
9. Preparatory drawings include Adam and Eve (pen and brown ink with wash, 1504, 24.2 x 20.1 cm, New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library, inv. I,257d); Studies for the Hand and Arm of Adam (pen and brown and black ink, 1504, 21.6 x 27.5 cm, London, British Museum, inv. 5218-181); and Study for the Figure of Eve (pen and brown ink with brown wash, ca. 1504, 27.7 x 17.1 cm, London, British Museum, inv. 5218-182). There are also individual studies for the elk (London, British Museum), the parrot (Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana), and the rabbit (London, British Museum); see Friedrich Winkler, Die Zeichnungen Albrecht Dürers, vol. 2 (Berlin, 1936), nos. 242, 244, and 359, respectively. On the London drawings, see John Rowlands, Drawings by German Artists and Artists from German Speaking Regions of Europe in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, vol. 1 (London, 1993), pp. 75-77; and more generally, Walter L. Strauss, The Complete Drawings of Albrecht Dürer, vol. 2 (New York, 1974), pp. 750-61, nos. 1504/11-17.
10. Examples of Proof State I are in Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett; London, British Museum; and Vienna, Graphische Sammlung Albertina; a unique impression of Proof State II is in Vienna, Graphische Sammlung Albertina. Peter Parshall (in David Landau and Peter Parshall, The Renaissance Print 1470-1550 [New Haven and London, 1994], pp. 313-14) describes the technical processes involved in this print.