de jonckheere old masters

Jacob Savery the Younger

Earthly paradise

Panel: 44 x 68,5 cm


Together with representations of the Flood and Noah's Ark, scenes depicting the Earthly paradise naturally encouraged the development of the animal genre. This pictorial discipline experienced a significant rise in Flemish and Dutch painting in the seventeenth century. In this painting, Jacob Savery the Younger offers a beautiful vision of the Earthly Paradise. As an artist, he was born into a family specialised in landscape and animal painting, with his uncle, Roelandt Savery being one of the most celebrated practitioners.

The scene evokes the peaceful harmony before the Fall. Adam and Eve occupy a central place in the composition, with a variety of animals populating the foreground and background. A veritable encyclopaedia of animals, the following species appear: a majestic lion in the foreground, alongside a cheetah, while not far from them, in the background, domesticated animals mingle with more wild and exotic creatures, representing the four continents known at that time. Naturally, such popular examples as they American turkey and African ostrich are present. All of the species coexist in perfect harmony, according to the biblical tradition. The iconographical type of the Earthly paradise can be compared with another genre depicting a profusion of animals: Orpheus charming the animals. In fact, the style of animals painted by Savery can be linked to an engraving by Nicolas Bruyn (Antwerp, 1565 or 1571 – Amsterdam, 1652) based on an unknown painting, a version of which is at the Cassel Museum.

It is above all the landscape that imbues this painting with the harmonious atmosphere of the Garden of Eden. The fine, meticulous technique is particularly visible in the rendering of the foliage, as well as the subtly contrasting lighting of this composition. The tree, essential to the Temptation, is literally and figuratively a central element in the scenery. On a more symbolic level, this construction creates vistas on both sides, metaphorically suggesting the division between virtue and sin which would soon become the fate of humanity, once Adam and Eve taste the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

Provenance :
Private collection, France