Adam, Tullio Lombardo (Italian, ca. 1455–1532), Marble, Italian, Venice


Tullio Lombardo (Italian, ca. 1455–1532)
ca. 1490–95
Italian, Venice
Overall: 6 ft. 3 1/2 in., 770 lb. (191.8 cm, 349.2697kg)
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1936
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 504
Tullio Lombardo was a member of a family of sculptors that included his father, Pietro, and brother Antonio. Through training and practice in Venice he developed a thorough understanding of classical art and created some of the first great sculptural statements of the High Renaissance. In a career spanning the years 1475 to 1532, he was known for large-scale narrative reliefs at the basilica of San Antonio in Padua, such as The Miracle of the Newborn Child (1500 – 1504), and sensuous double portraits, such as Young Couple (ca. 1500 – 1510, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), but his major contributions were monumental wall tombs. Of these, the most famous is the tomb of Doge Andrea Vendramin, and its most forward-looking sculpture, the Museum’s Adam, is the first lifesize nude marble statue of the Renaissance.

Grandiose tombs, such as the one carved by Antonio Rizzo for Doge Niccolò Tron, in Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (1476 – 79), began to fill the walls of Venetian churches in the fifteenth century. In another Venetian church, Santa Maria dei Servi, the tomb of Doge Andrea Vendramin (died 1478) was probably erected in the early years of the decade 1490 – 1500, since an account by the chronicler Marino Sanudo mentions that it was under way in 1493.[1] An engraving of the tomb there shows a classicizing triumphal arch towering over the bier of the deceased.[2] Freestanding statues of page boys (damaged; Bode Museum, Berlin) stood above the upper story, which featured statues of the Annunciation separated by high reliefs of the Nativity. [3] Below, the elaborate program included statues of virtues, warrior saints, and, in niches on either side, Adam and Eve. In the early nineteenth century the whole tomb was transferred to the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice, where it can be seen today, with various alterations and minus the statues of the pages and the first man and woman. About the time of the tomb’s transfer, the statues of Adam and Eve were moved to the Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi on the Grand Canal, the home of generations of the Vendramin family. After the building was purchased in the mid-nineteenth century by the duchesse de Berry, Adam moved through a succession of illustrious collections before the Museum acquired it in 1936.

Originally, Adam occupied a prime position in the wall monument to the left of the doge’s bier, just above a viewer’s eyes. The statue was one of many elements of an elaborate tomb, yet it has extraordinary force and grace in its own right. This biblical figure stands next to an ivy-covered tree trunk, his weight shifted to his right leg. He steadies himself on a lopped-off branch of the tree with his right hand, while proffering the apple signifying the Fall of Mankind with his left. A powerful physique is implied by his chest and arm muscles. The hair is a downturned bowl of sharply rendered locks framing a face with a serious —  even drawn —  expression. There is a gentle sway to the contrapposto of the body but at the same time a stiffness to the stance; the sensuous sheen of flesh is countered by hip joints and dorsal muscles rendered so perfectly that they approach abstraction. Wendy Stedman Sheard has described well this tension in Adam’s body and presence, noting particularly the contrast between his dreamy sensuality —  with its roots in antiquity and its connection to the reveries imagined by Venetian painters like Giorgione —  and the cool, somewhat aloof dignity.[4] She noted the classical sources that underlie Tullio’s conception: the rigor of the Doryphorus for the pose and the barrel-chested male beauty of the Antinous. The work that Sheard thought inspired Tullio most profoundly is a Roman copy of a Greek Apollo of the fifth-century b.c. (Palazzo Ducale, Mantua). Sarah Wilk has suggested that a revival of interest among Venetian Renaissance sculptors in late classical ivory carvings contributed to Adam’s rigid posture. [5]

Though not unprecedented, the inclusion of Adam and Eve in a tomb program is unusual.[6] Eberhard Ruhmer has even proposed that Adam belongs to a different commission and places it a decade later than the generally accepted date of about 1490 – 95. [7] In her comprehensive analysis of the Vendramin tomb, however, Sheard convincingly explains their presence as an example of the "Fortunate Fall," the idea that the Fall of Mankind generated the possibility of salvation and the triumph of Christianity, which is symbolized by the triumphal arch above them.[8] The paradise in which Adam and Eve dwell, evoked by abundant floral motifs carved across the tomb’s reliefs, serves as a metaphor for the afterlife of the deceased.

On stylistic grounds, Wilk agreed that Adam and Eve were included in the Vendramin tomb and confirmed that they date in the 1490s, noting a number of connections between Adam and other works by Tullio of that period.[9] A few scholars have doubted that Adam could have been created so early in Tullio’s career, but Wilk countered that the forward-looking nature of their sculpture explains precisely why the Lombardo family was so influential on the greatest sculptors of the next generation, Michelangelo and Andrea Sansovino.
Tragically, the pedestal supporting Adam in a Museum gallery collapsed in October 2002 and the statue fell, breaking into several pieces. A painstaking and lengthy analysis of the marble ensued, and the application of such techniques as laser scanning and finite element analysis to the fragments has yielded important new data on the physical stresses inherent in the stone, making it possible to choose the optimal methods for its repair and conservation. With the help of specially commissioned tests of adhesives and pins, the restoration of the sculpture is near completion. The scientific and conservation studies that this restoration necessitated will be published as a compendium of information for conservators. When conservation and cleaning are complete, the statue will be installed in a new gallery devoted to the Venetian Renaissance in a niche that approximates the height of the one on the Vendramin tomb.

[Ian Wardropper. European Sculpture, 1400–1900, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2011, no. 9, pp. 36–39.]


[1] Marino Sanudo. De origine, situ et magistratibus Urbis Venetae. Venice, 1493. [Reprint ed., edited by Angela Caracciolo Aricò. Collana di testi inediti e rari 1. Milan, 1980.] Giovanni Mariacher. "Tullio Lombardo Studies." Burlington Magazine 96 (December 1954), pp. 366–74, proposed a later dating.

[2] Monumento di Andrea Vendramin che stava nella chiesa dei Servi in Venezia, drawn by Borsato (published in Cicognara 1813 – 18, vol. 2, pl. xlii); see Wendy Stedman Sheard. "The Tomb of Doge Andrea Vendramin in Venice by Tullio Lombardo." 3 vols. PhD diss., Yale University, New Haven, 1971, vol. 3, pl. 96.

[3] For the pages in the attic of the tomb, see Michael Knuth. "I Paggi del Monumento Vendramin nel museo di Berlino: Storia e stato di conservazione." In Tullio Lombardo, scultore e architetto nella Venezia del Rinascimento: Atti del Convegno di Studi, Venezia, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, 4–6 aprile 2006, edited by Matteo Ceriana, pp. 15–22. Verona, 2007.

[4] Sheard 1971, vol. 1, pp. 168 – 73.

[5] Sarah Wilk. The Sculpture of Tullio Lombardo: Studies in Sources and Meaning. Outstanding Dissertations in the Fine Arts. New York, 1978, p. 22.

[6] Adam and Eve are part of other Venetian tomb programs of the period, such as the Arco Foscari in the Palazzo Ducale, Venice, of about 1485.

[7] Eberhard Ruhmer. "Antonio Lombardo: Versuch einer Charakteristik." Arte veneta 28 (1974), pp. 39–74, p. 54.

[8] Sheard 1971, vol. 1, pp. 215 – 22.

[9] Wilk 1978, pp. 20 – 24.
#94. Adam, Part 1
#94. Adam, Part 2
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Signature: Engraved on front of plinth: TULLII.LOMBARDI.O.
by descent in Vendramin-Calergi family , Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi, Venice (ca. 1819–42) ; the duchesse de Berry , Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi, Venice (ca. 1844–65; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 8–13, 1865, no. 2); Henri Dieudonné d'Artois, comte de Chambord , possibly Schloss Frohsdorf, near Vienna (until d. 1883) ; Princess Beatrix de Bourbon-Massimo (1893–? after 1921) ; Henry Pereire , boulevard de Courcelles, Paris (until 1932) ; by descent, Mme Henry Pereire (1932–March 1935; sold to Stiebel) ; [ Stiebel, 45, avenue de Montaigne, Paris (March 1935–July 1936, sold to Seligmann, Rey) ] ; [ Arnold Seligmann, Rey and Company, New York (July–December 1936; sold to MMA) ]