adam and eve

Adam and Eve

1638 by Rembrandt
Museum Het Rembrandthuis

Looking at drawings or etchings by great painters tends to add an extra rung to our ladder of insight. So pure and immediate is the medium, we feel slightly more comfortable examining it in detail; we can imagine putting pencil to paper as it’s something we all have done. This etching was at a temporary exhibition at the National Library of Dublin and its surrounding of large leather-bound books seemed to encourage a mythical interpretation of this well-known story. The snake, who has been transformed into a dragon-like reptile, looms over the couple; his face peering out, slightly menacingly, from his darkly etched bat-like wing. The garden of Eden appears as a crossing of worlds; the gnarled branches of the apple tree evoke the English forest, while an over-weight elephant hides, quite amusingly out of place, in the background at its feet. Adam and Eve are also portrayed slightly differently to their usual depictions. Their faces have Rembrandt’s characteristic expressions, but, more than this, they each seem to possess a distinct human personality that we can relate to —from Eve’s round features and open gaze, to Adam’s comical expression frozen mid-speech, held below tufts of dishevelled hair. Adam and Eve appear as they should, not as glorified and embellished, but engrossing and intriguing, as people we can see ourselves in.


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Filed under Seventeenth-Century

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