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Lucas Cranach the Elder, Kronach 1472 - 1553 Weimar, circle of, Portraits of Martin Luther and

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Lucas Cranach the Elder
Kronach 1472 - 1553 Weimar, circle of
Portraits of Martin Luther and Katharina of Bora
16th century
Oil on oak
Each 40.5 x 26.5 cm, with frame 50.8 x 36.9 cm

This representative double portrait is the marriage portrait of Martin Luther and Katharina of Bora. Numerous of these portraits in various formats, a dozen of which have survived today, were probably created in Cranach's workshop from their engagement on 13 June 1525 onwards. Engagements and weddings in particular were regarded as occasions for such portraits, which were exchanged or given as gifts in bourgeois circles in order to emphasise the social status of the sitters. At the same time, the conventional depiction of this marriage portrait also served as a role model and encouraged imitation.

As Luther spoke out in favour of the appreciation of marriage, he was encouraged to marry himself. Katharina of Bora was originally a nun from the Cistercian monastery Marienthron in Nimbschen, who had fled to Wittenberg with others to seek the protection of the reformer. As she was unable to return home, she worked in the household of Lucas Cranach the Elder, who was also present at her and Luther's engagement. News of this marriage of a monk to a nun quickly spread and public interest seemed to be so great that the Cranach workshop profited by creating a large number of double portraits, often on small transportable panels.

The different portrait variants show some similarities, for example in the posture of the couple towards each other: Katharina of Bora is depicted on the right-hand side, which is characteristic of the wife in marriage portraits. She is looking at the viewer, while Martin Luther is looking to the right, towards his wife and the counterpart of his portrait. Both wear black robes with stiff collars; Luther wears his curly hair short and his wife dons a red hairnet, with this colour repeated in her bodice and the rings on her left hand. This type is a larger version against a green background. The double portrait has particularly striking similarities in format, background colour, and posture to the one of the same type from 1526 in the National Museum in Stockholm (inv. no. III.M8a and III.M8b). Another double portrait, this one of the smaller format type, is in the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbuettel (inv. no. III.M11a and III.M11b), the shading of which is very similar. An equally comparable double portrait also exists in the Oeffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel (inv. no. III.M1a and III.M1b), although these early portraits from 1525 are conceived as tondi, still refer to portrait medallions as models, and reveal a smaller pictorial section.

Literature:
Martin Brecht, Martin Luther. Sein Weg zur Reformation 1483-1521, Berlin 1986.
Cranach Digital Archive, Marriage Portrait of Martin Luther and Katharina of Bora (1525 - 1526), Duesseldorf 2024.
Gunnar Heydenreich, Lucas Cranach the Elder. Painting materials, techniques and workshop practice, Amsterdam 2007.

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[ translate ]

Lucas Cranach the Elder
Kronach 1472 - 1553 Weimar, circle of
Portraits of Martin Luther and Katharina of Bora
16th century
Oil on oak
Each 40.5 x 26.5 cm, with frame 50.8 x 36.9 cm

This representative double portrait is the marriage portrait of Martin Luther and Katharina of Bora. Numerous of these portraits in various formats, a dozen of which have survived today, were probably created in Cranach's workshop from their engagement on 13 June 1525 onwards. Engagements and weddings in particular were regarded as occasions for such portraits, which were exchanged or given as gifts in bourgeois circles in order to emphasise the social status of the sitters. At the same time, the conventional depiction of this marriage portrait also served as a role model and encouraged imitation.

As Luther spoke out in favour of the appreciation of marriage, he was encouraged to marry himself. Katharina of Bora was originally a nun from the Cistercian monastery Marienthron in Nimbschen, who had fled to Wittenberg with others to seek the protection of the reformer. As she was unable to return home, she worked in the household of Lucas Cranach the Elder, who was also present at her and Luther's engagement. News of this marriage of a monk to a nun quickly spread and public interest seemed to be so great that the Cranach workshop profited by creating a large number of double portraits, often on small transportable panels.

The different portrait variants show some similarities, for example in the posture of the couple towards each other: Katharina of Bora is depicted on the right-hand side, which is characteristic of the wife in marriage portraits. She is looking at the viewer, while Martin Luther is looking to the right, towards his wife and the counterpart of his portrait. Both wear black robes with stiff collars; Luther wears his curly hair short and his wife dons a red hairnet, with this colour repeated in her bodice and the rings on her left hand. This type is a larger version against a green background. The double portrait has particularly striking similarities in format, background colour, and posture to the one of the same type from 1526 in the National Museum in Stockholm (inv. no. III.M8a and III.M8b). Another double portrait, this one of the smaller format type, is in the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbuettel (inv. no. III.M11a and III.M11b), the shading of which is very similar. An equally comparable double portrait also exists in the Oeffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel (inv. no. III.M1a and III.M1b), although these early portraits from 1525 are conceived as tondi, still refer to portrait medallions as models, and reveal a smaller pictorial section.

Literature:
Martin Brecht, Martin Luther. Sein Weg zur Reformation 1483-1521, Berlin 1986.
Cranach Digital Archive, Marriage Portrait of Martin Luther and Katharina of Bora (1525 - 1526), Duesseldorf 2024.
Gunnar Heydenreich, Lucas Cranach the Elder. Painting materials, techniques and workshop practice, Amsterdam 2007.

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Sale price
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Estimate
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Reserve
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Time, Location
07 May 2024
Austria, Vienna
Auction House
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