Adam and Eve

7:00 AM

Albrecht Dürer, Adam and Eve, 1507

Though contemporary ideas about the "ideal figure" has changed radically throughout history, our fascination with it has hardly faltered. Albrecht Dürer sought to identify this body, immaculate and supreme, in his portrayal of the first humans: Adam and Eve. Though Dürer’s competence for painting takes its place in other Dürer artworks, the above happens to be an engraving. As Adam and Eve are often depicted as the paradigm of human perfection, Dürer’s undertaking of this subject called forth his knowledge of proportion, symmetry, and other artistic techniques to accumulate into this engraving. Dürer believed that an artist could achieve a higher understanding of their creations by expanding their field of knowledge to other subjects. Naming this artistic notion kunst, Dürer applies his self-invented theory to Adam and Eve.

Scouring through Adam and Eve at close proximity, one can’t help but marvel at the sheer amount of detail hidden in every millimeter. Dürer’s intention to capture the quintessential man and woman did not fall short, but to ignore the rest would be an injustice. Accompanying the two humans, various creatures crowd around the two. Yet, despite their animal instincts, they sit in peace. The cat, settled comfortably between Adam and Eve, seems to pay little attention to the mouse near it. Even nature is involved in the parity between all living beings, as the middle tree acts as a split between Adam and Eve to symbolize their balance. Only the deceitful serpent exists as a partial being in this idyllic sanctuary.

Dürer’s primary goal for Adam and Eve was to capture the intricacies and shape of the principal human figure. For starters, he seems seems to channel Apollo as a point of reference for Adam. This is evident in Adam’s highly precise muscle definition, especially noticeable in his torso and the darkened areas of his legs. In contrast, Eve’s legs are soft and untoned. Additionally, their arms are meaningfully positioned to juxtapose one another. Adam’s left arm grasps onto a branch, while Eve’s right hand discreetly cups around a fruit as her left hand reaches out to receive the snake’s apple as well. Impressively, Dürer details their arms with realistic, striking veins, highlighted by the medium in which they are presented in. Eve’s exaggerated hair flows back and weaves together in a braid-like motion. Adam’s curls spiral about his scalp with a peculiar neatness. In seemingly every way, the two are distinguished as opposites.

So, has Dürer achieved his goal of interpreting the ideal figure? Even if he hasn’t, he’s certainly worthy of applause. No piece subsists without its flaws. The fingers on Adam’s right hand may be at a slightly wrong angle, and Eve’s right leg bends oddly — still, does it matter if he’s truly captured anatomical perfection? Dürer’s achievements with this particular engraving almost certainly outshine his slight mistakes.

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