Albrecht Dürer 1471 – 1528

Adam and Eve (1504)

copper-plate (25 × 19 cm) — 1504 Museum National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Albrecht Dürer biography

This work is linked to Genesis 3:6

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This engraving shows the Fall of Man: the moment Eve took the apple from the snake and gave it to Adam. Eating that fruit was explicitly forbidden to the couple, but they could not resist the temptation.

Dürer also shows the theory of the four temperaments. Every person has these four humours or personality types. In Paradise they were in perfect balance, but after the Fall the balance was lost. The temperaments are symbolized by animals:

  • the cat (foreground) is choleric;
  • the rabbit (behind the cat) is sanguine;
  • the ox (behind Eve) is phlegmatic;
  • the elk (behind the tree) stands for melancholia.

Adam holds a branch of the mountain ash, the Tree of Life. Eve has taken a twig off the fig: the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. The parrot, well known as the chatting bird, probably symbolizes sin.

The sign reads "ALBRECHT DVRER NORICVS FACIEBAT 1504": Albrecht Dürer of Nuremberg made this in 1504.

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