Lucas Cranach the Elder
Caritas, 1535
Oil on panel, 50 x 34 cm.
Inventory number: 0017NMK
Bestowed, 1908


In memory of love. Caritas is Latin and means charity or, alternatively, love. This is one of Christianity’s seven cardinal virtues: Prudence, justice, courage, temperance, faith, hope and love. In art, caritas is often symbolised by a heart, sometimes a burning heart, or depicted as a woman surrounded by small children. In Cranach’s work, a woman is seated on a stone bench surrounded by four children. She is nude except for a thin, transparent veil, as if to symbolise something original. Three children of different ages surround her as a child is fed at her bosom. She looks out at the viewer, while the children’s attention is directed at her. The leaves of the surrounding trees are depicted with meticulous detail, which was characteristic of the German Renaissance, and in the background, a jagged imaginary landscape unfolds. In front, on the stone bench, the inscription CHARITAS and the year 1535 can be seen.


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.

Translator: Jennifer Russell

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