Decoding Animals in Art History, From Immortal Peacocks to Lusty Rabbits
This painting, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, shows the sun god Apollo, admired for his moral standing and physical beauty, and his twin sister Diana or Artemis, goddess of the moon, who was associated with chastity, archery and hunting. The emphasis on humanity closely related to the primeval forest and hunting recalls Cranach’s earlier work and the so-called Danube School. The scene is given a particular intensity by the way in which the figures are seen in relief but also related to the forest behind them. Diana’s precisely rendered hair curls around the stag’s antlers, which in turn are deliberately confused with the branches of the trees behind. Cranach’s characteristically incisive clarity and attention to minute detail is seen here – for example, in the reflected light in the stag’s eye or the small swans swimming on the lake.
'The Northern Renaissance: Dürer to Holbein'
Kate Heard and Lucy Whitaker
ISBN 978 1 905686 32 2
Friedrich Campe, Nuremberg; from whom purchased by Ludwig Gruner for Prince Albert, June 1844 for £105
A prolific German Renaissance painter, and engraver, Lucas Cranach may have invented the full-length portrait. Cranach served as painter to the court of Frederick the Wise of Saxony in Wittenberg, where he specialized in portraits with bold compositions and strong colors. He was also responsible for decorative schemes around the court, as well as for tournaments and celebrations; the considerable demands of this work led him to open a workshop and to develop techniques and procedures of standardization that sped up the painting process. A close friend of Martin Luther, Cranach also supervised the printing of Luther’s pamphlets, painted altarpieces for Lutheran churches, and produced portraits of Protestant reformers and princes, as well as designing woodcuts for Luther’s translation of the New Testament.
German, 1472-1553, Kronach, Germany, based in Weimar, Germany