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John Frederick the Magnanimous, Elector of Saxony
Cranach the Elder, Lucas (Workshop of)
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Cranach the Elder, Lucas (Workshop of)

Kronach (Germany), 1472 - Weimar (Germany), 1553

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John Frederick the Magnanimous, Elector of Saxony

1533. Oil on panel.
Not on display

This painting was made following the Mechanised procedures used by various German workshops in the 16th century, including that of Lucas Cranach. Between 1532 and 1533 Cranach produced 120 similar portraits of Electors of Saxony, commissioned by John Frederick following his ascent to the title in 1532 and which Cranach’s numerous activities (as Burgomaster of Wittenberg, publisher and pharmacist) prevented him from executing personally. It should be remembered that Cranach was Court Painter to the Electors, most actively to John Frederick, with whom he enjoyed a close friendship. The present work is a small commemorative or ‘presentation’ portraits produced in series, as can be deduced from its similarity to other portraits which were painted on small-format panels and in standard sizes using mechanised techniques of reproduction, and from its similarity to the various versions of this image of the Elector. This is indicated by the repetition of the same compositional format, defined by schematic outlines and the use of barely three colours. In fact, the information derived from a technical analysis of the painting indicates that the various replicas of John Frederick (whom Cranach knew extremely well) were made on the basis of autograph drawings by the artist, which were transferred to the painting, and not executed freehand. In almost all the known surviving versions the face is practically identical, although the attributes and pose differ. The economy of means with which the image is painted is so pronounced that the shadows of the volumes of the flesh tones are largely derived from the underdrawing (the nose is not even painted on the upper surface), and only a very light glaze adds nuances. In order to create the lighter areas the artist also made use of the pale ground, as is also the case with the fur of the over-garment. The work contains numerous surprising details which should be understood as attempts to conceal the standardized practices of this workshop.They include highly subtle elements such as the minute scratchings that emphasise the hair and beard (This text is based on Gónzález Mozo, A.: El Retrato del Renacimiento, Museo del Prado, 2008, p. 499)

Technical data

Inventory number
Cranach the Elder, Lucas (Workshop of)
John Frederick the Magnanimous, Elector of Saxony
Height: 20 cm; Width: 14 cm
Acquisition, 2002.

Bibliography +

Urbach, S., ''Research report on examinaitions of underdrawings in some early nethenlandish and german panels in the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts'' en: Colloque VIII Pour L'Etude du Dessin Sous-Jacent Dans la Pei..., [s.n], Lovaina, 1989, pp. 77-91.

Campbell, Lorne, Renaissance Portraits. European Portrait Painting in the 14th, 15th, And 16th Centuries., Yale University Press, New Haven. Londres, 1990, pp. 182.

Christensen, Carl C., Princes and propaganda: electoral Saxon art of the Reformation, Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, Kirksville, 1992.

Koepplin, Dieter, Lucas Cranach 1553/2003. Wittenberger Tagungsbeiträge anlässlich des 450. Todesjahres Lucas Cranachs des Älteren, Evangel. Verlagsanst, Leipzig, 2007, pp. 299-312.

Heydenreich, Gunnar, Lucas Cranach the Elder : painting materials, techniques and..., Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2007, pp. 106-111.

Falomir, Miguel (ed.), El retrato del Renacimiento, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2008, pp. 340.

V.V.A.A, Bild und Botschaft : Cranach im Dienst von Hof und Reformation, Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, Gotha, 2015, pp. 240-267.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2600.

Inscriptions +

[Pequeño dragón serpentino de alas levantadas, habitual en el artista antes de la muerte de su hijo Hans en 1536]
Signed. Front, upper left area

Dated. Front, upper left area

[Escudos del elector Juan Federico de Sajonia y de su esposa]
Back, central area

[sello de lacre]
Wax seal. Back, upper left corner

132 / Fasque [referencia a la mansión campestre en Escocia de la familia Gladstone: Fasque, Aberdeenshire]
Inscribed in golden colour. Back, lower central area

S [en alusión a Sajonia]
Inscribed in white. Front, upper central area

Exhibitions +

The Renaissance Portrait
03.06.2008 - 07.09.2008

Displayed objects +


Update date: 13-01-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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