Text copyright © June 23, 2013 Dr. Elizabeth A. Garner, All Rights Reserved
One of Albrecht Dürer’s most famous prints is the composition Dürer called Adam and Eva and which previous researchers have erroneously titled The Fall of Man. Calling this print the Fall of Man forces us to perceive that this composition in taking place in the Garden of Eden, which it is not.
The Dürer Cipher-TREES
One of the consistencies of the Dürer Cipher is that if there is a tree in the center of the composition, Dürer is telling us two stories are being told in the print. And we have a tree in the middle of this composition so we have to look very carefully at what is really going on and separate the symbols properly to their respective “owners,” the “Adam” story and the “Eva” story.
In the Talmud (the first five books of the Hebrew bible), Adam is the “first” man that God creates. Eva is actually the “second” woman created for Adam, Lilith having been the first. Lilith wouldn’t agree to be controlled by Adam or God, so the Lilith figure was demonized. For more on Lilith, please see http://witcombe.sbc.edu/eve-women/7evelilith.html
Thus, Adam is the “first” man of Genesis and Eva is the “second” woman. That’s what Dürer depicts in this print; this “Adam” is the first “man” and “Eva” is the second woman.
What we see on the left is one of two surviving examples of what are called trial impressions of the Adam and Eva print, where the artist prints a proof off the plate to ensure the engraving at that stage of completion prints accurately. We can possibly infer from this trial impression that the most important symbols of this composition are the snake and the parrot and the elk, for that was completed first. So let’s look at the snake.
Notice the snake with nail heads in the middle of the print is the same heraldic snake we find here:
On the left you see the marriage coat of arms of Hieronymous Holzschuher when he married the daughter of Dr. Hieronymous Münzer in Nuremberg in 1498. Notice in the enlargement of the Münzer snake emblem that the snake has three nails embedded in its head.
Now look at how Dürer depicted the snake in his 1507 painting of Adam and Eve
You can see at the lower RIGHT that the protrusion on the snake’s head is completely different from the nails in snake’s head in the Adam and Eva print. The Adam and Eva snake is the heraldic emblem of Münzer, with an extra nail. Also notice that Dürer depicts the snake eating the apple, not Adam or Eva as the storyline requires, which infers that Dürer tells us this snake is the epitome of evil.
Notice also that the snake’s tail is nailed down, as we see in the enlargement lower right. Dürer has used this symbolism before in the Prodigal Son, as you see in the enlargement comparison in the upper right. Thus it appears that Dürer is giving us a message about this snake and the snake in these two different prints represent the same person.
Münzer’s scandal was the birth of an illegitimate daughter, named Margaret. I believe the extra nail head in Dürer’s snake represents “an extra Münzer,” this illegitimate child. Eva is apparently her mother.
Now look at the parrot that is associated with Adam. This parrot has been considered a symbol for the Virgin Mary, which doesn’t make much sense if Dürer is depicting the garden of Eden. Since the snake was the heraldic emblem of Münzer, then the parrot probably was also. So I searched for a heraldic parrot emblem of a person associated with Dürer and found this:
In the lower right you see the parrot coat of arms of the Patrician Paumgartner family. Dürer was intimately connected with the Paumgartners in his lifetime, having painted the Paumgartner altar and depicting his very close friend and probable lover, Stephen Paumgartner, in his woodcut known as the Men’s Bath as early as 1496, which you see on the left. The parrot, which is eating grapes, a symbol of wrath from the Hebrew Bible, represents Stephan Paumgartner and his association with Dürer in this composition.
So far we have Dürer as Adam depicting Stephen Paumgartner eating grapes of wrath and Eva associated with Hieronymous Münzer, depicted as the epitome of evil. What other messages hidden in plain sight exist in this print?
Plenty. More to come.