Overview

In The Crucifixion with the Converted Centurion, Lucas Cranach the Elder chose to portray a scene of religious redemption. The crucified Christ, silhouetted against a darkened and troubled sky, is at the point of death; his last words from the cross are inscribed above him in German: VATER IN DEIN HET BEFIL ICH MEIN GAIST (Father, into thy hand I commend my spirit [Luke 23:46]). At that moment, a Roman centurion, astride a white charger, recognizes Christ's divinity and pronounces: WARLICH DISER MENSCH IST GOTES SVN GEWEST (Truly, this man was the Son of God [Mark 15:39]).

The theme of The Crucifixion with the Converted Centurion especially appealed to Protestants because it clearly illustrated the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, the central precept of their creed. The centurion, clothed in contemporary armor, symbolized the "Knight of Christ" who steadfastly defends his new-won belief despite all adversity.

From 1505 until his death, Cranach was the court painter to three successive electors of Saxony. He became close friends with Luther -- who lived in the Saxon town of Wittenberg -- and is considered the foremost artist of the Reformation.

Inscription

lower right: 1536; below date, the artist's device, a serpent with folded wings; across top: VATER IN DEIN HET BEFIL ICH MEIN GAIST (Father, into thy hand I commend my spirit); at top of cross: I.N.R.I; center, below Christ's feet: WARLICH DIESER MENSCH IST GOTES SVN GEWEST (Truly, this man was the Son of God)

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Dr. Demiani, Leipzig, by 1899;[1] (sale, Rudolph Lepke, Berlin, 11 November 1913, no. 40). Mrs. Jenö Hubay, née Countess Cebrian Rosa; sold after her husband's death in 1937 to Mathias Salamon; acquired 1947 by Aladar Feigel, Budapest; George Biro; sold 1952 to (Dominion Gallery, Montreal); sold 1952 to (M. Knoedler & Co., New York), jointly owned by (Pinakos, Inc); [3] purchased February 1952 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; [4] gift 1961 to NGA.[5]

Exhibition History

1899
Cranach-Ausstellung (Deutsche Kunst-Ausstellung), Dresden, 1899, no. 65.
2007
Knights in Shining Armor: Myth and Reality 1450-1650, Allentown Art Museum, Pennsylvania, 2007, fig. 21.

Bibliography

1899
Friedländer, Max J. "Die Cranach-Ausstellung in Dresden." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 22 (1899): 242.
1900
Flechsig, Eduard. Cranachstudien. Leipzig, 1900: 275, no. 65, 282, under no. 115.
1932
Friedländer, Max J. and Jakob Rosenberg. Die Gemälde von Lucas Cranach. Berlin, 1932: 85, under no. 303. (Rev. ed., The Paintings of Lucas Cranach. Amsterdam, 1978: 145, no. 378c, repro.).
1956
Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Colllection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation 1951-56. Introduction by John Walker, text by William E. Suida and Fern Rusk Shapley. National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1956: 60, no. 20, repro. 61.
1959
Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 309, repro., as The Crucifixion with Longinus.
1961
Seymour, Charles. The Rabinowitz Collection of European Paintings. New Haven, 1961: 41.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 34, as The Crucifixion with Longinus.
1967
Talbot, Charles W. Jr. "An Interpretation of Two Paintings by Cranach in the Artist's Late Style." Report and Studies in the History of Art, 1967-1968 1 (1967): 68, 71-78, repro. 69.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture: Illustrations (Companion to the Summary Catalogue, 1965). Washington, 1968: 27, no. 1621, repro., as The Crucifixion with Longinus.
1972
Angulo Iñiguez, Diego. "Lucas Cranach: el Calvario de 1538 del Museo de Sevilla." Archivo Español de Arte 45 (1972): 6.
1974
Schade, Werner. Die Malerfamilie Cranach. Dresden, 1974: 86, no. 635.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 86, repro. 87.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 165, no. 187, repro. 164.
1977
Eisler, Colin. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools Excluding Italian. Oxford, 1977: 24-25, fig. 15.
1982
Abrams, Richard I. and Warner A. Hutchinson. An Illustrated Life of Jesus, From the National Gallery of Art Collection. Nashville, 1982: 123-124, color repro.
1983
Wolff, Martha. German Art of the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1983: unpaginated, repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 165, no. 181, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 106, repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. Washington, 1992: 54-55, 68, color repros.
1993
Hand, John Oliver, with the assistance of Sally E. Mansfield. German Paintings of the Fifteenth through Seventeenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1993: 44-48, color repro. 47.
1995
Löcher, Kurt. Review of German Paintings of the Fifteenth through Seventeenth Centuries, by John Oliver Hand with the assistance of Sally E. Mansfield. Kunstchronik 43 no. 1 (January 1995): 15.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 136-137, no. 103, color repro.
2004
Koerner, Joseph Leo. The Reformation of the Image. Chicago, 2004: 226-239, fig. 106, 111.

Conservation Notes

The panel is composed of two boards with vertically oriented grain. Dendrochronological examination by Peter Klein provided dates of 1486-1531 and 1439-1530 for the individual boards and also indicated that both boards were from the same tree.[1] At the top and bottom there are narrow, unpainted edges that have been apparently filled and overpainted at a later date. The left and right edges of the panel have been trimmed and a cradle attached. On the reverse strips of oak 0.38 cm wide have been set into the panel.

The painting is in good condition. There is a network of small cracks in the paint layer, which extends into the ground; this is most prominent in the front portion of the horse and extends upward into the area of Christ's drapery. There are some shallow scratches to the right of the horse and near Christ's torso. Areas of abrasion exist near the knees of the crucified figure at the left and in the hindquarters of the horse.


[1] The wood was identified as beech (sp.Fagus) by Peter Klein, examination report, 10 April 1987, and by the National Gallery's scientific research department, report, 15 July 1988, both in NGA curatorial files. The wood was erroneously identified as linden in exh. cat. Dresden 1899, which was repeated in Eisler 1977, 24.

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