This 16th-century engraving by Flemish draughtsman Jan Sadeler I (1550-1600) is after a drawing by Crispijn van den Broeck (1524-1589/91) and depicts the fall of man.
Isn’t it astonishing that this beautiful engraving has remained intact for around four centuries? And even more so that we’re able to admire it without visiting a museum? In 1575, when Sadeler engraved this piece, Elizabeth I was Queen of England, Tintoretto was working, Caravaggio was 4, and Rembrandt hadn’t been born.
Allegorical prints were vital in the 16th century and often formed the basis of numerous paintings. The majority of citizens couldn’t read or write, thus the church relied upon imagery to communicate its message. Here, we see Eve standing by the tree of knowledge having been tempted by the serpent, and in turn, tempting Adam. Various animals, each with a symbolic meaning, are displayed on either side. A rabbit conveys sexual purity and a camel represents humility.
Regardless of your religious leanings, it’s a wonderful addition to any collection.
The Rijksmuseum holds another copy.
Signed lower left in the plate and held within a good contemporary frame.
Medium: Engraving on hand-laid paper
Overall size: 19” x 16” / 48cm x 41cm
Year of creation: Engraved c. 1575 (probably published in 1643 as part of Hollstein Dutch 5-3).
Condition: Artwork presents well.
Jan Sadeler was the eldest of three brothers and hailed from Antwerp. He worked as a court engraver in Munich and received papal privilege in 1598. His works are held in numerous public collections including at the British Museum, Met Museum, V&A, Fitzwilliam Museum and the Harvard Museum.