Lucas Cranach, the Younger (Wittenberg 1515-1586 Weimar)
Lucas Cranach, the Younger (Wittenberg 1515-1586 Weimar)
Lucas Cranach, the Younger (Wittenberg 1515-1586 Weimar)
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Lucas Cranach, the Younger (Wittenberg 1515-1586 Weimar)
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PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
LUCAS CRANACH, THE YOUNGER (WITTENBERG 1515-1586 WEIMAR)

Ill-Matched Lovers

Details
LUCAS CRANACH, THE YOUNGER (WITTENBERG 1515-1586 WEIMAR)
Ill-Matched Lovers
signed with the artist's device of a serpent with wings folded (centre left)
oil on panel
29 x 18 7/8 in. (73.7 x 48 cm.)
with inventory number '37' (lower left)
Provenance
In the family of the present owners since at least the mid-19th century.
Sale Room Notice
In addition to the lots marked in the catalogue with the relevant symbols this lot has a guarantee fully or partially financed by a third-party who may be bidding on the lot and may receive a financing fee from Christie's. Please see the conditions of sale for further information.

Brought to you by

Clementine Sinclair
Clementine Sinclair Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

This superb, unpublished panel is a work of Lucas Cranach the Younger’s early maturity and a fine addition to the Cranach corpus. The Ill-Matched Lovers, pairing a grotesque older man with a knowing and beautiful younger woman, was a highly popular subject in the sixteenth century, and one frequently treated by Cranach the Elder and his workshop.
The theme, which has its roots in antiquity in the poetry of Plautus, enjoyed a great revival in Northern Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, in both literature and the visual arts. Writers, such as Erasmus in his In Praise of Folly (1511), explored the idea that lascivious old age leads to foolishness, and that women can hold sway over men, causing them to lose their minds and their money, part of the topos of Weibermacht, or the power of women, that found particular resonance in the Northern Renaissance. The depiction of a mismatched couple was taken up and explored by printmakers and artists in Germany in the early 1500s, sometimes shown as a mild satire, sometimes as a strong indictment against involvement with women; in the case of the Cranach workshop, it was a subject taken up assiduously, with over forty examples of the composition produced from the 1520s onwards, responding no doubt to the demand for such images.
The composition of the present picture appears to be a unique invention. It relates most closely to the panel of 1531, given to the workshop of Cranach the Elder in Prague (Prague Castle, inv. no. HS 241), where the couple embrace in comparable fashion, with the woman’s left arm draped over the man’s shoulder as she turns back to look at the viewer. The elder Cranach treated the subject on several occasions: the two earliest examples of circa 1520-22 (both Budapest, Szépmúvészeti Múzeum) as well as the pictures in the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna (1531; fig. 1), the Rudolfinum, Prague and the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg (both circa 1530). It is conceivable that he may have been influenced by a treatment of the subject in 1503 by his predecessor as painter to the Saxon court, Jacopo de' Barbari (Philadelphia, John G. Johnson collection, inv. no. 167).
We are grateful to Dr. Dieter Koepplin and Dr. Werner Schade for independently recognising the present picture as a highly original work by Lucas Cranach the Younger (on the basis of photographs, both private correspondence, July 2020). Both note the originality of this variation of the Cranach theme, with Dr. Schade considering it: ‘ein gemälde von unvergleichlicher eigenart’ (‘a painting of incomparable uniqueness‘), which Dr. Koepplin dates to circa 1540-45. Dr. Michael Hofbauer and Prof. Dr. Gunnar Heydenreich, to whom we are also grateful, believe it to have been painted in the workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder, the former considering it an outstanding work datable to between 1535 and 1538 and the latter dating it to circa 1540. Dr. Schade notes a clear correspondence between the old man and figures produced by Lucas Cranach the Younger for a series of woodcuts for Ringer kunst: Fünf und Achtzig Stücke (The Art of Wrestling: Eighty-Five Devices), published in Wittenberg in 1539, as well as recognising him in the figure of one of the Apostles in The Last Supper of circa 1547-48 (Wittenberg, Evangelische Stadtkirche St. Marien), on which Cranach the Younger and Elder collaborated.

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