This exhibition features the remarkable and exceptional collection of courtly portraits, ten by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) and three by Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515-1586) from the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Reims. The drawings depict leading figures in Protestant Germany in the 16th century.
The Cranach drawings on display in this exhibition had originally been bought in Germany (probably in 1687) by the Reims born enameller Jacques-Phillipe Ferrand, who gave them to his son, Antoine Ferrand de Monthelon, the director of one of the first Schools of Drawing in France. Acquired by the city through the bequest of Ferrand de Monthelon in 1752, the series entered the museum collection in 1794 along with thousands of 17th and 18th century drawings. Ascribed successively to Dürer and Holbein, the drawings were neglected and ended up in an attic as mere studies, not seen as works of art, until, in 1881, they were ascribed to the Cranachs. This attribution has been confirmed: two different watermarks belonging to 16th century German paper mills can be seen on three of the drawings, and drawings confirmed as Cranachs in other museums (e.g. the Albertina in Vienna) have the same watermarks as some in Reims.
The fame of this collection is due to the fact that drawn portraits by the Cranachs (intended as studies and ‘models’ for later oil paintings or for practice by the pupils of the Cranach workshop) have seldom survived, and the portrayed people are, for the most part, identifiable as members of princely and ducal families of Saxony and Pomerania living in Germany at the time of Reformation. A few oil paintings corresponding to the Reims portraits have been located in Germany and the USA. Often, if the drawing was not transformed into an oil painting, it would become an enamel or a medallion portrait.
Lucas Cranach the Elder was a contemporary of Albrecht Dürer and Hans Holbein. He was a friend of Luther and official painter to the Electors of Saxony, and he exercised his talents as a portrait painter in both circles: his drawn portraits reveal his painstaking accuracy and his sincerity to the full. Since the studies were to serve as models, he deliberately ignores the accessories of the portrayed people, which made his reputation in his oil paintings. Even when hats or jewels are present in the drawing studies, they do not distract the eye; on the contrary, they serve to emphasize the presence of the subject and lend the drawing a modern feel.
Lucas Cranach the Younger was the son and pupil of Lucas the Elder, and his collaborator. He managed the family studio from 1537 and continued his father’s relationship with the same bourgeois and aristocratic clientele of Saxony. His lighter, more pictorial style can be identified in the drawn portraits. The faces are no longer outlined as they were by his father: the modeling is smooth and the light diffuse, the technique somehow softened.
These 13 tempera drawings, executed between about 1539 and 1545, testify to a talent that has lost nothing of its freshness and is undoubtedly stimulated by the spontaneity of the technique.
Because of their fragility, these drawings are usually presented in the museum in rotation only, so it is with great pride that we may announce that the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Reims, has given acb the exclusive right to present these works as part of the exhibition ’Lucas Cranach the Younger – Discovery of a Master’ at Collegium Augusteum, Lutherstadt Wittenberg, with a spectacular display of all 13 drawings united in one show.
These portraits were part of the exhibition ’Lucas Cranach the Younger – Discovery of a Master’ shown at Collegium Augusteum, Lutherhaus Wittenberg, Germany, June 26, 2015 – November 01, 2015.
An exhibition curated and managed by Art Centre Basel in collaboration with the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Reims and the City of Reims, France.
Catalogue Editor: Suzanne Greub
The catalogue has been published by Hirmer Publishing, Munich 2015. Language: German
Contributing authors: Prof. Dr. Claus Grimm (Munich), Dr. Michael Hofbauer (Heidelberg), Dr. Mila Horký (Bonn), David Liot (Reims), Marie-Hélène Montout-Richard (Reims), and Dr. Manuel Teget-Welz (Erlangen)