This highly accomplished statuette bears many of the hallmarks of Leonhard Kern, one of the foremost carvers of small-scale sculpture in 17th-century Germany. From the flat ringlets of hair, slanting eyes, and thin, arched nose, to the carefully observed and finely carved, robust anatomy, the present figure of Adam finds close comparisons in works from the master's accepted oeuvre. Two versions of the same subject from the hand of Kern, equally carved in wood - one embracing Eve, the other from an Expulsion pair - display similar traits and allow for a tentative dating of the present figure between circa 1630 and 1640 (Grünenwald, op. cit., no. 8, pl. 23 and no. 20, pl. 53). The Adam relates also to figures in other materials favoured by Kern, particularly the so-called Money Counter in bronze (ibid., no. 2, pls. 18 and 19) and an ivory Adam in Berlin (ibid., no. 10, pl. 26). What distinguishes the present figure is its assured contrapposto stance, undoubtedly the result of Kern's formative studies in Italy.
Born in 1588 in Forchtenberg, Hohenlohe, Leonhard Kern was among the most important German sculptors of his generation. Statuettes from his workshop in Schwäbisch Hall were sought-after collectors' items in European Kunstkammern, and were delivered to the courts of Berlin, Brunswick, Dresden, Baden-Baden, Munich and Florence. Kern's success is underscored by his appointment in 1648 as court sculptor to Frederick William von Hohenzollern, Elector of Brandenburg. Having spent several years in Italy, Kern was among the first German sculptors to model nudes from life, and it is his unique combination of anatomical study and original thematic content that is still admired by collectors today.
E. Grünenwald, Leonhard Kern: Ein Bildhauer des Barock, Schwäbisch Hall, 1969; H. Siebenmorgen (ed.), Leonhard Kern (1588-1662): Meisterwerke der Bildhauerei für die Kunstkammern Europas, exh. cat. Hällisch-Fränkisches Museum Schwäbisch Hall, 1988, nos. 77 and 86