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A family caught in the ancient cycle of work, eating and death, as depicted in Genesis 3.19. Engraving by C.J. Visscher.

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About this work


Bible. O.T. Genesis 3.19: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return". The ambiguity of the Biblical quotation makes it possible that the central figure could be either digging as work or digging his own (and his family's) grave. The notion that this family are condemned to everlasting uncomfortable toil is tempered somewhat by the domestic cosiness of the scene. A dog frolics in the lap of one of the girls and a cat is to be seen in the foreground, dozily watching the approach of a snake. The positioning of the domestic cat between the shovel and the serpent, and the craggy figure of the eagle at the far-left are both interesting touches. In the far distance, in the shade beyond the figure of the horse lit up by the sun, Adam is reclining next to the more anxious figure of Eve

Physical description

1 print : line engraving ; platemark 40.8 x 51.8 cm


In sudore vultus tui vescitor cibo, donec revertaris in humum, cum ex ea desumtus fueris. Geneseos. 3.19. Hier is de Vrÿheÿt weg en alles onder dwang,/ Een yeder moet in 't sweet nu sloven om syn broodt, en onderworpen sÿn de prickel vande doodt. O Staatsucht schoon voor 't oog, wat is u nasmaack wrang! N. Visscher excud

Creator/production credits

N. Visscher seems to be Nicolas Joannis, another name of Claes Jansz Visscher


Wellcome Library no. 20368i



  • Dutch
  • Latin

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