- Museum number
Adam and Eve; the couple nude in the Garden of Eden, Eve holding an apple at centre, with monstrous serpent on Tree of Knowledge to right, an elephant in background; first state with outline of bank weak. 1638
Etching, touched with black chalk on tree trunk to left
Watermark: Strasbourg lily (Hinterding catalogue, variant E´.c.b., datable 1638)
- Production date
Height: 162 millimetres
Width: 116 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- For impressions of later states see also F,4.40 and 1843,0607.16. For a copy by Basan, see 1941,0327.11.9.
Selected literature: Berlin 1970, no. 1; Slatkes 1980, pp. 7-13; Paris 1986, no. 57; Berlin-Amsterdam-London 1991-2, pp. 195-7, no.II, Roscam Abbing 1994, pp. 15-23; White 1999, pp. 38-41.
Hinterding et al. 2000:
In terms of creating spatial recession in the landscape and an immediate sense of atmosphere, the etching of 'Adam and Eve' marks a significant development for Rembrandt. For the first time he suggests an airy landscape background, in which an elephant trumpets its bulk through a sunny Eden. [In 1637 Rembrandt had made studies of an elephant in black chalk (Benesch 457-60, see Slatkes 1980, though the example in the British Museum may date from later - see Royalton-Kisch 1992, no. 18). His landscape style remains rather consistent in his etchings between the 'Adam and Eve' of 1638 and the mid- to later 1640s (cf. the 'Boathouse' of 1645, B.231, and the 'Cottage with a white paling' of 1648. B.232)]. The figures are lit mostly from behind, so that Rembrandt depicts their forms largely in terms of light reflected from the foreground, producing an unorthodox and yet astonishingly convincing effect.
The only difference between the two states is the addition of a firm outline to clarify the bank behind Adam. The touched first state from the British Museum (the only other recorded impression of this state, in Vienna, is not touched) suggests that he considered enclosing the figures in a kind of arbour instead. This impression also has some extra hatching in pen and brown ink around Adam's left foot. The additions in grey wash, to the foliage at the top left, Adam's head, and the touch on Eve's, are probably posthumous. [The pen and brown ink lines may have been acted upon, as hatching appears very faintly indeed immediately under Adam's foot in another impression of the second state in the British Museum (1843,0607.16), producing a new state. But these lines probably wore away very quickly].
As in the earlier etching of 'Diana at the bath' (1829,0415.17), Rembrandt abstains from the customary idealization of these figures and presents Adam and Eve as past the first flush of youth. For this the print was singled out for criticism by the classicist painter and biographer, Arnold Houbraken (Roscam Abbing 1994). Nor, as they discuss the implications of the fruit, do they radiate a keen intelligence. In the preparatory sketch, Rembrandt at first toyed with a more melodramatic solution on the left of the sheet, with Adam shrinking back in horror from the proffered fruit (Noted by Bevers in Berlin-Amsterdam-London 1991-2, p. 195, no. 11. See further the Introduction to Hinterding et al. 2000, pp. 69-70). The figures were sketched again on the same sheet, much as they appear, in reverse, in the print, with a more subtle portrayal of the psychology of the moment. The dragon-like 'serpent' is based on the beast in Albrecht Dürer's engraving of 'Christ in limbo'; Rembrandt acquired a large group of the German master's prints in 1638, the year of this etching. [The Dürer is B. 16, from the 1512 'Engraved Passion'. For the documents, see Strauss & Van der Meulen 1979, no. 1638/2. Rembrandt purchased the prints on 9 February 1638 at the estate sale of Gommer Spranger].
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2000/1 Jul-Jan, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt the Printmaker
2001 Jun-Sep, Edinburgh, NG of Scotland, Rembrant's Women
2001 Sep-Dec, London, Royal Academy, Rembrandt's Women
2006 Apr-Jun, Hull, Ferens AG (Sth Bank Tour), Rembrandt
2006 Jun-Sep, Bath, Victoria AG (Sth Bank Tour), Rembrandt
2006 Oct-Dec, Newcastle, Laing AG (Sth Bank Tour), Rembrandt
2007 Apr-Jun, Stoke-on-Trent, Potteries MAG (Sth Bank Tour), Rembrandt
2007 Jun-Sep, Blackpool, Grundy AG (Sth Bank Tour), Rembrandt
2019 7 Feb-4 Aug, BM, G90, 'Rembrandt: thinking on paper'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number