Lucas Cranach the Elder
Madonna and Child with the Young St John the Baptist, after 1537
Oil on panel, 74 x 54 cm.
Inventory number: 0016NMK
In memory of salvation. The insistent gaze of the Virgin Mary immediately captures the viewer. The slanted almond-shaped eyes have a mysterious sheen to them. At the very centre of the iris, the cross from a window is reflected, both foretelling Jesus’ sacrificial death and giving life to the eyes. The grapes in John’s hands reference the Last Supper, where wine was transformed into the blood of Jesus. The Virgin Mary is portrayed as the mother of the Son of God and as a worldly woman dressed in fine lace and embroideries. The depiction of the transparent veil and the cloth of the dress testifies to an extraordinary artistic virtuosity. Cranach was one of his time’s most sought-after painters. Despite the religious feuds of the time, Cranach’s clients included both Catholics and Protestants. Cranach’s monogram, the winged snake, visible at the bottom left of the painting, has lying wings. Before 1537, he usually painted the monogram with fully upright wings.
Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553)
The German Cranach was a painter and draughtsman. He worked in Vienna for a period and later as court painter in Wittenberg, where he also ran a large workshop together with his sons Hans and Lucas. In addition to his artist work, Cranach also served as mayor numerous times and ran an apothecary and a publishing business, where his publications include the writings of Martin Luther. As a young artist, Cranach was a proponent for the Danube School’s expressive painting style. He later developed his elegant and harmonious court style, the Wittenberg style, where both late Gothic and Mannerist tendencies were united in his soft, elongated figure types and peaceful compositions.