Albrecht Dürer’s engraving of Adam and Eve was inspired by "Battle of the Nudes," an engraving made fifteen years earlier by the Italian Renaissance artist Antonio Pollaiuolo. Like Pollaiuolo, Dürer engraved his name in Latin on a cartello, or placard, and based his figures on classical prototypes. Dürer began to experiment with the nude form after discovering Renaissance art during a trip to Italy in 1494. By 1500 he was searching seriously for a theoretical, mathematical basis for proportion. Dürer derived Adam’s form from the "Apollo Belvedere;" Eve was based on his analysis of the "Medici Venus."
By depicting Adam and Eve before the Fall, Dürer could emphasize their physical beauty and perfection. "Adam and Eve" was one of the first prints in which Dürer combined his studies of classically inspired male and female nudes into a single composition. The balance of their poses strengthens the suggestion of the ideal life they enjoyed in Paradise. Eve is shown with two pieces of fruit, which she has taken from the Tree of Knowledge to share with the serpent. Adam holds a branch from the Tree of Life, a mountain ash, which was believed to repel snakes. Dürer contrasted the serpent with the parrot, which was associated with Mary and supposedly counteracted Eve’s curse. At the foot of the tree, a cat is poised to attack a mouse. A goat, balanced on the rocky cliff in the distance, is a warning of what will occur after the pair have tasted the forbidden fruit.