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Ivory was a favorite medium for the finest small-scale sculpture during much of the seventeenth century, and this is a work of extreme virtuosity. Complex interactions link the figures. Adam's pose, with one knee drawn up and head lolling back, speaks of both resistance and surrender. Eve engages him with her body, arm around his shoulder, knee at his hip. Careful attention has been given to the surfaces. The trunk of the tree appears weathered and gnarled, the body of the boy-headed serpent plated with scales. The carver has also taken daring chances by deeply undercutting and piercing the ivory. Eve's long hair ripples over Adam's head, twisting in fragile tresses. There are large open spaces between Adam and Eve and where the serpent hangs onto the tree.

These elements give the statuette a feeling of deep three-dimensionality. It comes as a surprise to look from the side and find that it is relatively flat.


Private collection; purchased by (unnamed dealer); (sale, Sotheby's, New York, 22 May 2001, no. 55); purchased by NGA.

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