Issue Number: 95
As Adam scratches his head and Eve casually pulls at the bough of the Tree of Knowledge, from which she has just plucked that fatal apple, there is an almost modern insouciance to Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Adam and Eve (below) in the Courtauld Collection. It is no surprise that it features in the opening credits of the US TV hit Desperate Housewives. Eve is as saucy as any of the scheming wives, and Adam is as confused as the henpecked husbands of Wisteria Lane.
Lucas Cranach the Elder, Adam and Eve.
In June, the Courtauld mounts a show that focuses on this exquisite picture, which was part devotional icon and part humanist feast for the eyes of the sophisticated man-about-Wittenberg, where it was painted in 1526.
Remarkably, the exhibition is the first-ever Cranach show in this country. Bringing together three other panel paintings and a number of associated drawings from the era, it challenges the received scholarly wisdom that the German master was best when very young.
The Courtauld’s Adam and Eve, painted twenty years after Cranach supposedly became formulaic, is the most elaborate and dazzling of his 50 depictions of the subject. Recent X-rays reveal he took unprecedented care over the composition, altering it several times. It promises to be a stimulating curtain raiser for the major Cranach show that the Royal Academy is planning for 2008.
Temptation in Eden: Lucas Cranach’s Adam and Eve, Courtauld Institute of Art, London (020 7848 2526), 21 June –23 Sep
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