Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, 1472–1553)
Oil on wood
6 1/4 x 8 1/2 in. (15.9 x 21.6 cm)
The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982 (1982.60.35)
Christ takes the adulteress by her wrist with one hand and gestures toward her with the other as he looks benignly in the direction of a group of her tormentors at the left. This group includes a lout in armor who, holding a hatful of stones in one arm, is poised to throw the first of them in the adulteress's direction. Jesus' admonishing words to him and his cohorts are inscribed in German along the upper edge of the panel: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John 8:7). Rarely depicted in the history of panel painting before the early sixteenth century, the subject of Christ and the Adulteress became popular during the Reformation and one of Lucas Cranach the Elder's frequently treated themes. There are at least fifteen surviving versions of the subject by Cranach and his shop, in addition to this picture. The didactic treatment of the theme exhorts the viewer to recognize his own sins, and to leave judgment to divine authority. The subject also illustrates a teaching from the Sermon on the Mount, a point of departure fundamental to Lutheran doctrinenamely, the lesson "Judge not, that ye not be judged" (Matthew 7:1). The agreement between the style, format, and theme of this picture and those of Cranach's Christ Blessing the Children, also in the Museum's collection, indicate that they were conceived together. Though the quality of these panels is extremely high, it is possible that their execution involved someone from Cranach's shop, quite possibly the master's son, Lucas the Younger.