An engraving depicting the moment before the Fall. Adam and Eve stand side by side with their faces turned towards each other in profile. Eve holds the apple behind her back and the crowned serpent, coiled around a tree, takes another fruit from her hand. Adam is holding a branch of mountain ash, symbolising the Tree of Life. A parrot is perched in the branch and a tablet bearing Dürer's inscription hangs from it. A forest forms the background with a craggy peak and mountain goat visible in the top right hand corner. There is a mouse and a cat (a symbol of choleric temperament) by Adam and Eve's feet. A rabbit (a symbol of sanguine temperament), an elk (a symbol of melancholic temperament) and a bull (a symbol of phlegmatic temperament) are positioned in the forest. The iconography relating to the theory of the temperaments/humours is a reference to the philosphy that Man contained a perfect balance of the four humours before the Fall. After the Fall the nature of each human was thought to be corrupted by the dominance of one or another of the humours.
'Durer made a large number of preparatory drawings which document the particular care with which he planned the design of this print. It also represents the culmination of his study of a system of human proportion seen in his slightly earlier drawings.' ('Albrecht Durer and his Legacy'; Giulia Bartram, British Museum Press, 2002).
Adam and Eve stand in pale contrast to the dark, and clearly northern, forest behind them; Eve is taking the fruit offered to her by the serpent which Adam stretches out his arm to receive in turn. The details of the figures and foliage are exquisitely depicted in swirling lines, cross-hatching and stipple engraving. Both Adam and Eve have delicately depicted curling hair and they stand almost mirroring each other in their classical poses, Adam holding a branch of the Tree of Life and Eve the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. This fine print displays the artist's virtuoso mastery of the engraving technique.