The Fall of Man forms a pair with another work by Goltzius in the Hermitage, The Baptism. Goltzius was an outstanding engraver and draughtsman who took up painting only at the age of 38. Together with a group of Mannerist painters he founded an academy in Haarlem. They introduced to Holland the systematic study of human anatomy and drawing from a naked model, which is reflected in these two important works. In Adam and Eve the monumental figures of the ancestors of all mankind are far from the antique ideal, with their heavy but perfectly proportioned bodies, and most of all they recall Dutch peasants. Goltzius develops the theme of The Fall from Grace (Book of Genesis, iii) in didactic tone, with the aid of traditional symbolism. The cat at Eve's feet is a symbol of the devil who awaits the sinner's soul in order to ruin it forever. The snake who occupies the place of a halo over Eve's head recalls the snake who first tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, offering her an apple from the Tree of Knowledge, and thus also symbolises the devil. Olives like those in Eve's hand are a symbol of the Eucharist, the future redemption of sins. The dog at Adam's feet and the whole walnut in his hand are symbols of virtue which resists temptation. The tulip which has blossomed between Adam and Eve has an ambiguous reading, for it could be both the "brief joys" which Adam and Eve will find in the world into which they are being cast, or hope of salvation. We should see a world of purity and plenty in the far of landscape with its bluish haze in the air.
adam and evedutch artistparadise losttulipnude malenude femaleoil on panel