The present composition was previously only known through two versions of lesser quality attributed to Cranach's studio. The first sold through Galerie Fischer, Lucerne, in 1954, and measured 60.6 x 38.5 cm. The second was formerly in the Estate of Ernst Buchner and measured 67 x 49 cm. (see Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich, doc. no. 122100 and 273464).
Dr. Werner Schade, having inspected the painting in the original (verbal communication, 12 December 2003) states that: 'I am convinced that this composition is by Lucas Cranach the Elder and was painted just before his two sons joined his workshop', circa 1530 and believes it to be one of the master's last masterpieces.
Mr. Ludwig Meyer (written communication, 20 August 2003) also confirms the attribution to Lucas Cranach the Elder from transparencies. However, he dates the painting to circa 1517, and believes that it may be the painting commissioned by Herzog Georg and Herzogin Barbara of Saxony in 1517. He believes the present work, flanked by two side panels of Herzog George on the left and Herzogin Barbara on the right (now in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid, see I. Lübbeke, The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Early German Painting 1350-1550, London, 1991, p. 197, no. 45 and 46) would have made up a small Fürstenaltar or a Duke's altarpiece. (fig. 1)
Dr. Dieter Koepplin, however, also having inspected the painting in the original (written communication, 11 December 2003) favors an attribution to Lucas Cranach the Younger possibly with assistance from his brother Hans Cranach and he dates the painting to circa 1535. He states: 'The iconographical design is original ... this impressive composition enriches the oeuvre of Cranach ... and is a work of great importance'.