Overview

In about 1600, Hendrick Goltzius, who was famous across Europe for his extraordinary abilities as a draftsman and printmaker, turned his talents to painting. In 1616 he painted this magnificent image of Adam and Eve reclining in the Garden of Eden like mythological lovers. By placing the almost life-size figures so close to the front of the picture plane, Goltzius entices the viewer to become emotionally engaged in this biblical narrative. Traditionally, images of the Fall emphasize shame, punishment, and the origins of humanity’s mortality, but Goltzius has chosen to present the event as a seduction based on physical attraction. Eve, with her back to the viewer, has already taken the first bite of the apple and turns with a knowing gaze toward Adam, who is utterly mesmerized by his companion.

Animals provide symbolical commentary. The serpent’s sweet female face represents the deceptiveness of appearances. The elephant in the distant field refers to the Christian virtues of piety, temperance, and chastity and serves as a symbolic contrast to Adam’s weakness of the flesh and infidelity to God. Goltzius included two goats, sometimes symbols for Eve, signifying a lack of chastity. The cat, representing the unjust judge, solemnly reminds viewers not to enjoy what they should condemn, lest they too cause more harm than good. Through these many symbolic references Goltzius suggests that humanity’s fall from grace is tied to Adam and Eve’s inability to restrain their physical appetites. The work exists within the classicist tradition, yet with this lavish painting Goltzius created an early example of what would be called the baroque style, a naturalistic manner of representation that depends upon the viewer’s empathetic response to fulfill its meaning.

Inscription

lower left in monogram: HG / AE 1616

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Possibly Boudewijn de Man, Delft; (his sale, Delft, 15 March 1644, no. 2, as Een Adam ende Eva).[1] Possibly private collection, Amsterdam, 1671.[2] Probably (anonymous sale, Hubert and Dupuy at Salle des Grands-Augustins, Paris, 3 June 1774 and following days, no. 34, as Adam & Eve).[3] (Camillo Davico, Turin), before 1936; purchased 1936 by Prof. Mario Micheletti, Turin; acquired 1972 by private collection, Switzerland;[4] (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, New York, 15 May 1996, no. 51); purchased by NGA.

Exhibition History

2000
Art for the Nation: Collecting for a New Century, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2000-2001, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
2003
Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617): Drawings, Prints and Paintings, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art, 2003-2004, no. 111, repro.

Bibliography

1869
Possibly Biscarra, Carlo F. Accademia Albertina. Turin, 1869: no. 95, possibly as "copia da Giacomo Jordaens--Adamo ed Eva originale degli Uffizi".
1990
Nichols, Lawrence W. The Paintings of Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617). Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1990: 128, 142-146, 185, no. A-2.
1996
Yapou, Yonna. "Dutch Acquisitions in Washington." Apollo 144, no. 418 (December 1996): 20, repro.
2000
Filedt Kok, Jan Piet. Netherlandish art in the Rijksmuseum, 1600-1700. Netherlandish art in the Rijksmuseum 2. Zwolle, 2000: 72-73, fig. 12b.
2000
National Gallery of Art. Art for the Nation: Collecting for a New Century. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2000: 22-23, color repro.
2003
Leeflang, Huigen, and Ger Luijten. Hendrick Goltzius, 1558-1617: drawings, prints and paintings. Exh. cat. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio. Zwolle, 2003: 302-303, cat. no. 111.
2004
Filedt Kok, Jan Piet. "De wisselvallige reputatie van Hendrick Goltzius." The Rijksmuseum Bulletin 52, no. 1 (2004): 52-53, fig. 29.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 216-217, no. 173, color repro
2011
Liedtke, Walter. "Frans Hals: Style and Substance." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 64, no. 1 (Summer 2011): 22, color fig. 21.

Conservation Notes

The painting was executed on a thin, fine-weight, plain-weave fabric. It has been lined to a coarser fabric and subsequently strip-lined. The tacking margins have been removed. There is slight cusping on the top and the left sides, but none on the right or the bottom. This information, coupled with the proximity of the figures’ limbs to the edges of the painting, could indicate that the edges may have been trimmed slightly in the past. The ground is a thin, light brown layer. The paint is thin and fluid in most of the composition, but thicker around the areas of flesh that require greater definition, such as the fingers, toes, and facial features. The paint is thickest in the cat, where Goltzius used rich brushwork to create the texture of the fur.

The X-radiographs show numerous losses to the support along the edges. They are most abundant along the top edge. The paint is tented, but secure and in good condition. There are a few rather small losses scattered throughout the composition in addition to the losses along the edges. There is also a vertical scratch in Eve’s neck. The painting was strip-lined and mounted onto a new stretcher in 1998. Discolored varnish and inpainting were also removed at that time.

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