Exhibition Archive

Temptation in Eden
Lucas Cranach's Adam and Eve

21 June — 23 September 2007


A seductive vision of Paradise

Adam and Eve brilliantly combines devotional meaning with pictorial elegance and invention.  The scene is set in a forest clearing where Eve stands before the Tree of Knowledge, caught in the act of handing an apple to a bewildered Adam.  Entwined in the tree’s branches above, the serpent looks on as Adam succumbs to temptation.  A rich menagerie of birds and animals completes this seductive vision of Paradise.  The painting is particularly admired for its treatment of the human figure and for the profusion of finely painted details, including animals and vegetation. Cranach delights in capturing details such as the roe-buck catching its reflection in the foreground pool of water. 

Cranach's Adam & Eve
Lucas Cranach, Adam and Eve, 1526, oil on panel, Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery, Samuel Courtauld Trust

Reuniting Cranach’s masterpieces


Cupid and Venus
Lucas Cranach the Elder Cupid complaining to Venus, c.1526-30 © National Gallery, London

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Apollo and Diana, 1530, The Royal Collection © 2006 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Adam and Eve is shown alongside a number other works which express the same themes of temptation and beauty, and were made on a domestic scale between 1526 and 1530.  They include the Royal Collection’s Apollo and Diana, the National Gallery’s Cupid Complaining to Venus, and the J. Paul Getty Museum’s A Faun and his Family.  The exhibition considers the possibility that these paintings were commissioned by a single patron, perhaps for the future Elector Johann Frederick, on the occasion of his marriage in 1527.

Remarkable powers of observation

Lucas Cranach the Elder A Dead Hind, c.1525-30 © Musée du Louvre, Paris

A number of exquisite animal studies – drawn from both living and dead beasts – are displayed to show the complex processes which went into transforming these real animals into their idealised representation in the Courtauld’s Adam and Eve.  These drawings, together with fine engravings and woodcuts, offer a unique opportunity to enjoy Cranach’s remarkable powers of observation and story-telling as well as his outstanding skills as a graphic artist.

The exhibition is generously supported by:
Apax Partners
Columbia Foundation
The Doris Pacey Charitable Foundation
The German Embassy London
(H. E. the Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger)
Mr & Mrs Hughes Lepic
The Kilfinan Trust
The Mallinckrodt Foundation.