Prague or Haarlem School
The Fall of Man
red chalk underdrawing for figures, black chalk underdrawing for landscape, pen & dark brown ink, brush and grey and brown washes w traces of purple wash and yellow-green wash in landscape and leaves covering Eve, thin white gouache applied w point of brush in landscape, red chalk over wash in upper tree boughs and leaves; 147/8 x 10" (380 x 255 mm). elaborate watermark. inscribed in pencil in a modern hand on the verso Spranger, also on the verso in red chalk Q152, and in pencil in a modern hand siecle Fuchs Sittengesch. ..Bd I, p.78.
Scholarly opinion is about evenly divided as to whether this beguiling drawing is German, likely Prague School, or Netherlandish, in particular, a Haarlem Mannerist. It was Goltzius who began making prints of Spranger's drawings in 1585 when Karel van Mander returned from Prague with them. That was the path of the Northern Mannerist idiom to Haarlem. What makes this drawing so difficult is not that it shows a knowledge stylistically of Spranger but that the figures of Adam and Eve are copied from a chiarascuro print by Hans Baldung Grien. This observation apparently went undetected until very recently. Many questions however are answered by this fact. Enigmatic elements included why Adam was picking the fruit, where is the serpent, and why the fig leaves before the pair were tossed out of the garden. If a contemporary interpretation of Baldung's Adam and Eve is correct, we learn that Baldung did not think that the act of eating the forbidden fruit was the crime but rather the pair's lascivious, sexual nature was. The fig leaf was installed because they were guilty, irrespective of the forbidden fruit. Not separated by a tree as in the usual depictions, they are touching and intimate. Eve provocatively faces us while being groped by Adam. That Baldung's image shows us that carnal lust is the reason for man's fall is confirmed by the inclusion of two rabbits, symbols of wanton, bestial sexuality.1
Perhaps this interpretation was not known to our artist and his interest was simply the erotic nature of this pair. If so, we needn't include a serpent. But our artist has drawn, almost painted (there is evidence of fugitive watercolors applied w a brush) an interesting woodsy landscape rather than a garden. This too is in part influenced by Spranger and Goltzius in the condensed, leaning trunks of the trees as well as in the type of leaf structure; however, on the right hand side and in the distance of our drawing, one finds a uniquely atmospheric and ethereal group of tall, thin and upright trees stretching to the sky and light, and in pairs as if referring back to Adam and Eve. This may well be an important clue as to authorship of this intriguing sheet as the treatment of the landscape is seemingly unique to this artist.
I am grateful to Erik Loeffler and his colleagues at the RKD for their help.2 They believe the Haarlem artist responsible for this work, if he is an artist in Haarlem, is as yet unknown and indeed state that there were a number of artists working in the south Netherlands whose oeuvre has yet to be established.
Stan Parchin, special exhibition correspondent for the Getty on the site: arthistory.about.com with reference to Hans Baldung .
emails including Nov. 6th, 2012.