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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst


Maker(s):Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
Culture:Dutch (1606 - 1669)
Title:Adam and Eve
Date Made:1638
Materials:etching on cream laid paper
Place Made:Netherlands; Holland
Measurements:sheet: 17.9388 cm x 13.4938 cm; 7 1/16 in x 5 5/16 in; plate: 16.1925 cm x 11.7475 cm; 6 3/8 in x 4 5/8 in
Narrative Inscription:  signed and dated in plate at lower center: Rembrandt fe 1638
Accession Number:  SC 1981:5
Credit Line:Purchased

Adam and Eve with apple next to tree; serpent is wrapped around tree and branches above them; Religion-Christian

Label Text:
This etching of Adam and Eve exemplifies Rembrandt's preference for a raw depiction of reality over representations of Classical ideals typical of the period. The piece hearkens back to enigmatic images drawn from medieval bestiaries and illuminations that characterize engravings of the German renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer, examples of which figured in Rembrandt's personal collection of art.
Rembrandt's Adam and Eve do not exhibit the classical ideals of youth and beauty; instead, they show signs of aging. Their hunched over posture, thick brows, and hirsute bodies, evoke the physiognomy of the Medieval folkloric creatures known as the "wildmen", representing at once the edenic couple's prelapsarian natural innocence and the depravity born of their primitive urges. The unbound nature and complex fate of Mankind is further emphasized in Rembrandt departure from the practice of veiling the bodies with the usual artificially placed fig leaves. Instead he shades their private area "unsuccessfully" with strongly carved crosshatched lines.
In another interesting variation, Satan here takes on the form of a dragon and climbs the tree of knowledge. The image is likely borrowed from Dürer's depiction of an ascending dragon Satan in his Christ in Purgatory, but it also corresponds to a closer reading of the scripture: “And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years” (Revelations 20). Moreover, while God cursus the serpent, he condemns him only after the fall to crawl henceforth on his belly. While Dürer included a complete symbolic menagerie in his Adam and Eve of 1504, Rembrandt presents only one other animal besides the dragon: the elephant. In addition to the common attribution of virtue and wisdom in the bestiaries, the elephant in full sunlight appeared as the allegorical opponent of the dragon symbolizing the baptismal rebirth of Mankind. This connection to baptism stemmed from the medieval notion that Elephants gave birth while standing in the water with their trunks lifted heavenwards. (hkdv 2012)

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