CRANACH, Lucas the Elder
(b. 1472, Kronach, d. 1553, Weimar)

Adam and Eve

Oil and tempera on maplewood, 117 x 81 cm
Courtauld Gallery, London

The subject of Adam and Eve was one of the most popular of the Cranach workshop, at least 50 paintings of Adam and Eve survive. The earliest surviving versions of Adam and Eve by Cranach, painted around 1510, show the nude figures against a neutral background. From the 1520s Cranach depicted Adam and Eve in a landscape setting accompanied by various animals. The version in Berlin belongs to these paintings.

The present painting occupies a special position among the 50 versions because of the large number of motifs and the extraordinarily high quality of the painting, as shown by the porcelain-like smoothness of the human bodies. The landscape depiction gives much space to the flora and fauna, it features a lamb, a hind and a stag, two partridges, a stork, a roe deer and a stag, a heron, and behind them a lion, a wild boar, and a horse. In front of the tree is a vine with flourishing foliage. (The motif of the vine climbing up the apple tree and bearing grapes occurs in Cranach's early compositions.)