Through the generosity of private donors, the Morgan acquired an exceptionally fine impression of the engraving Adam and Eve by the German master Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528). One of the most celebrated works of the artist's career, the engraving represents the culmination of Dürer's lifelong exploration of the perfect human body as it corresponds to a rational system of proportion and measurements. In the detailed, finely rendered engraving, Adam clasps a branch of the Tree of Life, while the fig branch held by Eve was broken from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. Four animals represent the medieval concept of the four temperaments: the cat is choleric, the rabbit sanguine, the ox phlegmatic, and the elk melancholic.
The engraving complements Dürer's drawing of Adam and Eve, also on display and among the Morgan's most important works. Like the engraving, the preparatory study was executed in 1504, the year before the artist's Venetian sojourn. With an additional eight drawings, an original copperplate, a woodblock, and an autograph letter by Dürer in the collection, the Morgan's holdings remain unrivaled in America.