Workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, 14721553)
Oil on wood, printed first on paper and then laid down on wood; 8 x 5 5/8 in. (20.3 x 14.3 cm)
Gift of Robert Lehman, 1946 (46.179.2)
Among the strongest defenders of the Reformation movement, Frederick the Wise and John the Steadfast were Lucas Cranach the Elder's patrons at Wittenberg. The paintings here form one of at least sixty pairs of portraits of the two brothers, who served successively as electors of Saxony. They were commissioned from Cranach by John's son and successor John Frederick the Magnanimous when he became elector in 1532. The pictures all have the same scheme, the upper two-thirds of the panel occupied by a likeness of the elector, the lower part with a pious eulogistic poem by Martin Luther, printed on paper and pasted onto the surface of the panel. Small labels identifying the sitters, also on paper, were pasted onto the light background; and the whole composition was varnished. So extensive a commission, featuring such a repetitive format, would undoubtedly have been executed mainly by workshop assistants.