54 1/4 x 24 1/2 x 20 7/16 in. (137.8 x 62.2 x 51.9 cm)
The Book of Genesis clearly states that Adam and Eve frolicked in the Garden of Eden unencumbered by clothing. They felt shame and the consequent need to cover themselves only after they had sinned: clothing itself thus became a symbol of original sin. With the Bible’s specificity on this point, artists from the Middle Ages into the nineteenth century felt free—indeed, were obligated—to depict Adam and Eve nude or, as here, nearly so.
In his beautiful and poignant retelling of the moment of the fall of Adam and Eve, the American neoclassicist Thomas Crawford contrasts the perfection of his subjects’ bodies with the highly charged facial expressions that are part of the consequences of their transgression. He also brilliantly uses their gestures and poses to unite them compositionally and to balance and support the weight of the marble. Notice, too, the suggestion of Eden given by the flower-strewn ground on which the figures stand, while at their feet is the forbidden—and bitten—fruit.
Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson for the Boston Athenæum.
Inscribed on reverse: T. CRAWFORD. / FECIT. / ROMA 1855.
Deposited by Emeline Austin (Mrs. William W.) Wadsworth, 1867