Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cranach, Lucas the Elder

A Prince of Saxony
oil on wood
43.6 × 34.5 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA

There is a companion piece showing a princess (see Nov.27 exhibit). The two children, dressed in characteristic Saxon costumes of the finest type, have been thought to be brother and sister, perhaps the children of Duke George the Bearded. The crown worn by the boy, however, signifies his engagement to be married, and the girl is likely to be his future bride. Cranach, court painter at Wittenberg and the leading artist in Saxony, was in great demand as a portraitist; these two paintings well explain the master's popularity.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), was a German Renaissance rapid and prolific painter. 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.

He continued throughout his career to paint nude subjects drawn from mythology and religion. He had a large workshop and his son Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515-86), and others, continued to create versions of his father's works for decades after his death.

Venus Standing in a Landscape is an example for the fashionable body of the period. The body is elongated with sloping shoulders, small breasts that are fairly far apart. Cranach emphasized the rounded abdomen, giving the appearance of pregnancy, a desirable body image of that time. In relation to the torso, the legs and arms are long, and the color of the skin is very pale and marble-like. All of these features indicate Cranach depicted fashionable body rather than a natural one.