LUCAS CRANACH THE YOUNGER

Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon

1559

Mixed technique on wood
Inv. No. SG 349

81.6 × 62.3 cm

zur  Biographie

In his portrait of the great humanist and reformer, the younger Cranach tackles a classical problem of portrait painting addressed in countless inscriptions: that the painter can describe a person’s exterior in a lifelike manner but cannot adequately convey his or her thoughts and
feelings. Cranach’s strategy is to contrast the somewhat disorderly appearance of a scholar, whose thoughts wander in spiritual realms, with the results of his work. Latin epigrams and a text by the church father St. Basil the Great, translated by Melanchthon, are bound in an imaginary book which the portrait subject holds out towards the viewer, demonstratively upside down to make it easier for the latter to read.
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