CRANACH, Lucas the Younger
(b. 1515, Wittenberg, d. 1586, Weimar)


after 1537
Oil on lime wood panel, 171 x 63 cm
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

This depiction by Lucas Cranach the Younger of the founders of the human race was part of a tradition in the Cranach workshop that spanned many decades. Lucas Cranach the Elder had produced a number of variants from 1509 onwards. Apart from small-sized versions on panel, we know of life-size pairs of paintings also by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Albrecht Dürer's first independent formulations of this theme in 1504 and 1507 were certainly the inspiration for Cranach's work on the subject. But unlike Dürer, Cranach was less interested in Antiquity and classical proportions, and operated rather within north Alpine traditions that were strongly influenced by Burgundian-Dutch forms.

Cranach's fundamental principle of varying individual motifs is illustrated in his depictions of Adam and Eve. Not only the posture and the vocabulary of gestures, but also the positioning of the fig-leaves, the background design and the representations of the animals can be found in either similar or identical form in the various versions that came from the Cranach workshop. The method of combining individual components to produce a striking overall impression gives a special quality to the Cranachs' works, which are never mere copies of previous designs.