Monday, June 02, 2008

Lucas Cranach the older - a German master from the 16th century

Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen has an impressive collection of art spanning most of the previous millennium. In the hallway we admired a bizarre collection of art of man and his relationship to death. From these contemporary works we wandered back into history, starting in the 15th century in Germany, and we saw some portraits of some very famous historic characters.

The carved wooden panel on the left dates back to 1650. The crucifixion is made by an unknown artist. It has been in Denmark for a long time, as it was bought already in 1673 and brought to the country.

The 15th century was a turbulent time in Germany. The Lutheran reformation divided the Catholic south and the Lutheran north. The painter Lucas Cranach the older (1472-1553) was closely connected to the Luther family and the Lutheran movement and he was godfather to Johannes Luther, one of Martin Luther and Katarina von Boras children in 1526.

This painting of Martin Luther was painted by Lucas Cranach the older in 1532. Lucas Cranach was in fact more or less the painter of the entire Luther family. He painted Hans Luther, his father in 1527, Margaretha Luther, his mother, and his wife Katharina von Bora in 1526.

Martin Luther was 59 years old in 1532, and in deteriorating health. He died of stroke in Eisleben in 1546.

This portrait of Elector John the Steadfast of Saxony (1468-1532) was painted by Lucas Cranach post mortem in 1533. He was born in Meissen, and protector of the Lutheran movement. He took over the throne of Saxony in 1525 from his brother Frederick the wise.

He established the Lutheran church as a state church in Saxony in 1532.

The painting is oil on wood. It came from Gottorp palace in Schleswig-Holstein in 1759. This was the ancestral home of the royal dynasty of Oldenburg.

This painting is much earlier than the two other, and has clearly a more catholic character.

Cranach painted Virgin Mary and baby Jesus 1510-1512. The holy family is protected by two small angels, and the two women by their side is Saint Barbara and Saint Catherine.

These two saints could not have witnessed this scene, as Saint Barbara lived in the 2nd and 3rd century, and Saint Catherine of Alexandria in the 4th century.

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