Dürer, Albrecht

Adam and Eve

1504 (250 Kb); Engraving, 24.8 x 19.2 cm (9 3/4 x 7 1/2 in)

Among the first results of Dürer's studies, which were to engage him throughout his life, was the engraving of Adam and Eve, in which he embodied all his new ideas of beauty and harmony, and which he proudly signed with his full name in Latin, ALBERTUS DURER NORICUS FACIEBAT 1504 ('Albrecht Durer of Nuremberg made this engraving in 1504').

It may not be easy for us to see immediately the achievement which lay in this engraving. For the artist is speaking a language which is less familiar to him than that which he used in our preceding example. The harmonious forms at which he arrived by diligent measuring and balancing with compass and ruler are not as convincing and beautiful as their Italian and classical models. There is some slight suggestion of artificiality, not only in their form and posture, but also in the symmetrical composition. But this first feeling of awkwardness soon disappears when one realizes that Durer has not abandoned his real self to worship new idols, as lesser artists did. As we let him guide us into the Garden of Eden, where the mouse lies quietly beside the cat, where the elk, the cow, the rabbit and the parrot do not fear the tread of human feet, as we look deep into the grove where the tree of knowledge grows, and watch the serpent giving Eve the fatal fruit while Adam stretches out his hand to receive it, and as we notice how Durer has contrived to let the clear outline of their white and delicately modelled bodies show up against the dark shade of the forest with its rugged trees, we come to admire the first serious attempt to transplant the ideals of the South into northern soil.

© 26 May 1996, Nicolas Pioch - Top - Up - Info

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