That Lucas Cranach was a well-educated man, particularly in the classical and biblical studies so important in his time, is evident from his pictures, in spite of minor mistakes in his Latin inscriptions. He was at no loss in his conversations with the humanists of Vienna, which he visited from to There he made the acquaintance, and painted the portraits, of the Rector of the University and the internationally well-known Professor of History, Johannes Cuspinian.
Cranach was also welcome among the scholars of Wittenberg.
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Melanchthon, Professor of Greek at Wittenberg University, devised programmes for his mythological paintings. He was witness to Luther's wedding and godfather to Luther's daughter Anna, of whom he later painted one of his most charming portraits. From Cranach Germany's national poet and supreme polymath, Goethe, was directly descended. Cranach was born near the Saxon border in the Bavarian town of Kronach. The Bishop of Bamberg resided in the castle which rises above its quiet streets.
By the standards of the fifteenth century Cranach's father Hans, also a painter, was something of a scholar.
He could draw up, in an Italianate hand and the correct form, legal depositions; in one of them quoting from the original Latin of the Vulgate Bible. His name was simply Hans Maler Hans the Painter.
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It may also represent the gilded-silver ceremonial sword presented to Emperor Maximilian I by Pope Leo and passed on to Albrecht at his investiture as cardinal. Installed in a place of honor near the high altar and bearing the insignia of Charles V, the reliquary thus symbolized the close relationship between the emperor and Albrecht. The Museum's painting follows the Saint Maurice illumination of the full-length reliquary statue in the Hallesches Heiltumsbuch quite closely while masterfully adjusting the figure and his massive armor to fit the narrow format of a side wing of an altarpiece.
Since Maurice faces to the right here, this panel probably formed the inside left wing of an altarpiece, the remainder of which has not been identified and may no longer exist. It is thought to have been based on that worn by Charles V for his coronation in Aachen in , which was subsequently given to Cardinal Albrecht as a present; however, documentary proof of this theory is lacking. The authorship of the painting has been addressed infrequently, as it has not been available for firsthand study. The sixteen altarpieces that Albrecht commissioned from Cranach between and comprised more than separate panels.
Cranach and his shop were accustomed to handling large commissions, and by this time he had adopted an increasingly streamlined painting technique that permitted rapid execution by both himself and his assistants. It is not always easy to distinguish Cranach's own hand from that of his assistants, but clues concerning authorship have been derived through infrared reflectography.
In this work, Cranach's hand is most likely seen primarily in the design stages and only to a restricted degree in the paint layers.
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The sense of assurance and directness in the handling of the saint's face is found in works most reliably attributed to the master, including The Martyrdom of Saint Barbara The Met, Certainly, the detailed rendering of the face and the masterful treatment of the landscape reflect a level of execution above that displayed in the treatment of the armor, the tedious, painstaking execution of which was surely turned over to an assistant. Which assistant was given the task may become clearer with continued investigations of the Cranach workshop.
The wood panel support is made of two boards of linden, with the grain oriented vertically. The join is reinforced with two original butterflies that are visible on the surface in a strong raking light and in the x-radiograph see fig. The unpainted wood border and barbe at the top and sides indicate that an engaged frame was in place when the white ground preparation was applied.
The bottom edge has been trimmed.
Before entering the collection, the panel had been thinned, marouflaged to a secondary oak panel, and attached to a mahogany cradle. Later, the cradle was removed, several splits repaired, and a custom-made spring tension strainer attached; however, the secondar panel was left intact. Although there are a number of scattered flake losses throughout, the paint layer is in very good condition overall, with only one area of significant damage, in the foliage at the bottom center, and surface abrasion limited to the tops of some of the more raised craquelure.
The white ground is primed with pale pink. Infrared reflectography fig. This confident, freehand drawing was applied with a brush and a liquid medium containing coarse black particles that were visible with magnification. The underdrawing was not followed exactly in the final composition; there are shifts in the placement of elements of the armor, in details of the flag, and in the articulation of the armor apron.
Portions of the underdrawing, including the loose, tailing curves and coils of the ostrich feather plumes on the hat, are clearly visible in normal light. While this effect is perhaps intentional, it may have been enhanced as the paint film became more transparent with age. The painting was produced in a sequential manner, and the quality decreased as the work progressed. While the underdrawing is extremely dextrous and the underpainting skillful, the final decorative details are weak. In the armor, for example, the shading and articulation of forms are sensitively handled and display a solid understanding of how to create the illusion of three dimensions, but the finishing touches describing the golden decorative metalwork are simplistic and somewhat crude.
The sky is underpainted in shades of gray, darkest at the top to nearly white at the horizon; these tonal gradations are followed in the finished painting. You need to opt-in for them to become active.
How Lucas Cranach, the Elder, became a Renaissance entrepreneur
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