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Lucas Cranach I and Workshop (Kronach 1472-1553 Weimar). Saint Christopher with the Christ Child crossing a stream, oil on panel. 48.8 x 35 cm. Estimate  €100,000 - €150,000 ($128,105 - $192,157).  © Christie's Images Ltd 2008

Provenance : Pastor Adolf Glitza, Hamburg, 1893.
Frau Meyer-Glitza, Hamburg, 1932.
Anonymous sale; Graupe, Berlin, 10 December 1932, lot 96, where bought by the family of the present owner.

Literature : M.J. Friedländer and J. Rosenberg, Die Gemälde von Lucas Cranach, Berlin, 1932, p. 48, no. 96, illustrated.
M.J. Friedländer and J. Rosenberg, The Paintings of Lucas Cranach, Secaucus 1978, p. 91, no. 109, illustrated.

 

Notes : The present composition is, according to Mr Ludwig Meyer, started by Lucas Cranach I and finished by his workshop (written communication, 29 August 2008). He points out that Cranach I, most likely, began with the head and blue/white collar of Saint Christopher; and the figure of the Christ Child with his billowing cape. These are not only the most important parts of the composition but also the elements that an artist starts with in order to paint a figure. Meyer explains that 'the part of the shoulder is very well painted and shows great plasticity that only Cranach was able to do. The head of Saint Christopher has great power and the Child is good and quite humorous'. He adds that the artist probably also made a rendering of the rest of the figure in order to give the workshop assistant an impression of the whole composition.

Dr Dieter Koepplin agrees with Ludwig Meyer, insofar that the panel is a collaborative effort between the artist and his workshop (written communication, 20 August 2008), whereas Dr Werner Schade believes that the picture is in its entirety a product of the Cranach workshop (verbal communication, 25 August 2008).

Lucas Cranach the Elder was born in Kronach, near Bamberg, the son of a successful artist by whom he was presumably trained. Cranach only emerged as a fully fledged artist in Vienna from 1501, when he was already in his early thirties. In 1505, Cranach became court painter in Wittenberg to the Elector of Saxony, in the service of whose family he remained for the rest of his life.

Friedländer and Rosenberg date the present Saint Christopher to 1518-20, when he was an accomplished and famous master. Around the same time he painted at least two other compositions with the same subject (see op. cit, 1978, pp. 91-2, nos. 109-11).

Saint Christopher was enormously popular all over Northern Europe from the 14th century onwards. Images were widely spread, because just a glance would prevent the unlooker from sudden death on the same day. In the Golden Legend he is described as a giant who sought to serve the most powerful person in the land. When he found out that his first master, a king, feared Satan, he left him to offer his services to the Devil. He soon found out that Satan trembled before a crucifix, so he sought to serve Christ. A hermit told him that it would most please the Lord if he devoted himself to carrying the weak and poor across a dangerous river. One day he unwittingly carried the Christ Child across, thereby achieving his desire to serve the greatest king in the world. The sea monster and female figure in the present composition are unusal details which occasionally appear in other compositions such as a print by Israhel van Meckenem of circa 1495. They probably symbolize danger and temptation (respectively) in the wider world.

Christie's. Old Master Pictures. 10 November 2008.  Amsterdam.