Friday, February 22, 2013

Cranach, Lucas, the Elder

The Law and the Gospel
tempera on linden wood
72 × 88.5 cm (28.3 × 34.8 in.)
National Museum, Prague, Czech Republic

Cranach created this painting in consultation with Luther around 1529. In the top left Moses receives the tables of the Law. Below him Adam and Eve undergo the Fall. In the center under the tree sits a naked young man - perhaps Adam, perhaps an ordinary sinner. To the right of him is John the Baptist, pointing to the salvation through the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. The bearded man is probably the prophet Elijah, who Christians often link to the coming of the Messiah. Left and right of the panel not only show the Old and the New Testament. There also is a division between death and resurrection, shown in Jesus rising from the grave. Cranach made a somewhat similar painting in the same year he made this panel, 1529. The other version is now in a museum in Gotha, Germany.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472 - 1553), was a German Renaissance rapid and prolific painter. He took his name from the small town of Kronach in South Germany, where he was born. He was court painter to the Electors of Saxony for most of his career, and is known as a close friend of Martin Luther, whose doctrine he upheld in numerous paintings, and he has been called the painter of the Reformation. Despite his allegiance to the Protestant cause, he continued to work for Catholic patrons and was a very astute businessman. Throughout his career, he continued  to paint nude subjects drawn from mythology and religion. He had a large workshop and, during the last years of his life, Cranach was assisted by his son, Lucas the Younger (1515 - 86), who carried on the tradition of the workshop and imitated his father's style so successfully that it is often difficult to distinguish between their hands.