Francesco Bacchiacca, Adam and Eve with Cain and Abel, c1517
14 x 11.1 in.
Francesco Bacchiacca (1496-1557) was an Italian painter who worked in the Florentine Mannerist style of the later Renaissance. Bacchiacca spent his life in Florence. He was an apprentice in the studio of Perugino (who also taught Raphael) and began to collaborate with other painters on important commissions by 1515. He gained experience through painting chests (cassone) and other bedroom furnishings for Florentine nobles. He expanded into large scale altarpieces with works like Beheading of John the Baptist. In 1540 he became a painter at the court of Duke Cosimo I de Medici and his wife, Duchess Eleanor of Toledo. In keeping with his reputation for decorative painting, Bacchiacca's first commission at court was to paint the walls and ceilings of the duke's study with plants and animals. Much of his work is fairly typical for the period, mostly religious figures and scenes. However, he does show particular interest in exploring family dynamics and relationships. His painting of Leda and the Swan demonstrates this, which shows, instead of the traditional depiction of their intercourse or romance, the birth of their children from eggs (though why Zeus as the swan is being nursed by Leda, I have no explanation). Bacchiacca takes a similar approach with this painting of Adam and Eve. Domestic scenes of the family are somewhat rare, showing neither the drama of the Expulsion, or the tragedy of Abel's murder. A later work that copies Bacchiacca's actually includes the Expulsion in the background to increase the drama, but Bacchiacca did not find that necessary. The resonances are quite enough. Everyone knows what happened to Adam and Eve before this, and what will transpire between Cain and Abel. Instead he shows this quiet moment. Adam pauses in his labor to speak to Eve, and the children appear shy and timid, clinging to their mother. Eve dominates the space, as the mother dominates the domestic sphere. It is a simple scene, rendered with care and skill.