National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Portrait of a Woman Lucas Cranach the Elder (artist)
German, 1472 - 1553
Portrait of a Woman, 1522
oil on panel
painted surface: 58 x 39.8 cm (22 13/16 x 15 11/16 in.) support: 58.7 x 40.5 cm (23 1/8 x 15 15/16 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1959.9.2
Not on View
From the Tour: 15th and Early 16th-Century Germany
Object 8 of 8

Cranach painted this woman and her husband (Portrait of a Man, also in the Gallery's collection) in the year Luther's German translation of the New Testament was first printed. Cranach was closely associated with the Reformation. Luther himself was the godfather of one of Cranach's children, and the artist painted Luther several times.

This couple's identity remains unknown. The lack of distracting details such as jewelry or elaborate embroidery and the featureless green backgrounds focus attention on their faces, which are naturalistic likenesses.

What is striking though not unusual about their portrayal is the way the man's portrait is dominant. He is much larger, and his shoulders extend beyond the frame of the painting, while hers is a smaller, less imposing figure. Her pale face seems drawn in comparison to his ruddy complexion. The opposing turn of their heads indicates that he occupied the place of honor on the left side. It is likely that the portraits were intended to flank a window: notice how the shadows are cast in opposite directions and how the reflections of window panes can be seen in their eyes. (In Strigel's portraits of Hans Roth and his wife, the couple's equal size and her placement on the left may indicate that they were commissioned by her family or when she received unusual honor on her birthday.)

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