Adam and Eve, 1638
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
1606 Leiden – Amsterdam 1669
Adam and Eve 1638
etching; 165 x 118 mm (6 7/16 x 4 5/8 inches)
Bartsch 28, White/Boon second (final) state; Hind 159; The New Hollstein 168 second (final) state
Strasbourg lily (probably Hinterding’s variant E.c.2; recorded for 1638)
A fine impression with superb contrasts, with plate tone especially in the leafy upper left area and the ground and bottom margin, wiped more cleanly in the area surrounding Eve.
The print is not common and impressions are often compromised, mostly by retouching or surface erasure of Eve’s pubic area. However, this is an extremely fine impression in beautiful, untreated condition.
Rembrandt’s Adam and Eve contrast notably with the idealized youthful forms of the first parents of mankind in Dürer’s celebrated engraving of 1504, the Fall of Man. And indeed, the artist’s description of this robustly unlovely couple was criticized as early as 1713 by Arnold Houbraken, by Gersaint in 1751, and subsequently by many other authors. For the figures of Adam and Eve are distinguished here by their slightly flabby-looking flesh, while the apparently contentious manner of their exchange suggests decades of tricky negotiation. These two are decidedly and comically middle-aged—and a great deal more lively and earthy than the somewhat static heroic nudes described by Dürer and his successors in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Further, as Clifford Ackley observes, “ Their vulnerable physical appearance, touchingly different from Dürer’s superhumans, seems already to reflect the consequences of the transgression they are in the very act of committing.”