Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, 14721553) and Workshop
Oil on wood; 54 x 15 1/2 in. (137.2 x 39.4 cm)
Bequest of Eva F. Kollsman, 2005 (2006.469)
This panel, which formed the left wing of an altarpiece, represents Maurice, the Roman legion commander from Thebes who was martyred in the late third century for refusing orders to slaughter the Christians of Gaul. Painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder and his workshop about 152225, it was likely among the many works commissioned for the church at Halle, which was rededicated as a collegiate church in 1523, by Cardinal Albrecht de Brandenburg (14901545), archbishop-elector of Mainz and the most powerful prelate in the Holy Roman Empire. The church at Halle became a showplace for Albrecht's art patronage, and it housed the preeminent collection of reliquaries in Northern Europe. Duly recorded in the inventory of more than 8,200 relics was a lifesize reliquary statue of Maurice, the patron saint of the empire, outfitted in a suit of silver armor trimmed with gold, precious gems, and pearls. The Metropolitan's painting reproduces this magnificent object. The collar of the Golden Fleece pendant, the Saint Andrew's cross between sparkling flintstones in the pauldrons, the imperial eagle on the banner, and the glittering ceremonial sword are all references to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (r. 151956).