Adam and Eve
from the Marktportal (Market Portal) of the Würzburg’s Marienkapelle (Chapel of Mary)
1491 – 1493
Adam and Eve cast a descriptive light on the Riemenschneider era in Würzburg and Lower Franconia and allow the visitors to be guided through the extensive permanent exhibitions of the museum. A thorough study of Adam and Eve is not only worth it because visitors experience more about two world-famous masterpieces of art, but also because they can gain an insight into the Late Middle Ages and Late Gothic Era at the turn of the 16th century.
The Biblical Story
If we follow the history of creation from the Old Testament, then Adam and Eve were initially at home in paradise before the snake persuaded Eve and then Eve persuaded Adam to eat the fruits from the tree, which God had explicitly forbidden the pair to do. With the enjoyment of the forbidden fruits, Adam and Eve’s time in paradise was over: they were ashamed of their nudity, were expelled from the Garden of Eden and had to henceforth struggle with great hardship to survive. In short: they became people on earth.
The Designing of Ideals
The hardship of earthly life cannot be seen in the figures of Adam and Eve by Tilman Riemenschneider. They appear to be youthful and innocent; modelled softly, with gentle faces surrounded by a magnificent head of curly hair and an unstable standing position, they look like they are from another world. The nudes do not have the correct anatomical design; these are designs of the ideal. It is this serene reverie, which makes the figures one of the most famous and most popular of our collection today and the epitome of Tilman Riemenschneider’s art.
Apparently, they were something special, even during the period in which they were created, between 1491 and 1493: They stood, visible for miles around, at the Marktportal of Würzburg’s Marienkapelle and justified Tilman Riemenschneider’s reputation, as his first public commission in Würzburg. They were commissioned by the city council. From their meeting minutes, we know that Riemenschneider received the tremendous sum of 110 guilders per figure (with support and tabernacle) and even an extra 10 guilders because the figures were “kunstlich meysterlich vnd zirlich” (artistically masterful and delicate). The high value of the figures, both then and now, raises many questions.
Why did Würzburg’s Stadtrat (city council) even want to replace the existing figures with new creations by Riemenschneider? What has Riemenschneider depicted – the first human beings in heavenly innocence, or are Adam and Eve already understood to be mortals at this point? What was made so “kunstlich meysterlich vnd zirlich” about the figures that the payment of a premium was justified? Today, copies are exhibited at the Marienkapelle . How did the figures end up in the museum? How were they handled in the past?
These are just some of the questions, which are answered in the lighthouse pres