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PROPERTY FROM A EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTION

Lucas Cranach the Elder
LUCRETIA
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Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
2,000,0003,000,000
LOT SOLD. 2,895,000 USD
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10

PROPERTY FROM A EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTION

Lucas Cranach the Elder
LUCRETIA
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
2,000,0003,000,000
LOT SOLD. 2,895,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Master Paintings Evening Sale

|
New York

Lucas Cranach the Elder
KRONACH 1472 - 1553 WEIMAR
LUCRETIA

Provenance

Wilhelm Löwenfeld, Munich;
His posthumous sale, Berlin, Rudolf Lepke, 6 February 1906, lot 40, illustrated pl. XVIII, sold for 2,800 RM;
Siegfried Wedells (né Wedeles), Hamburg;
By whom bequeathed to the City of Hamburg, 1919;
By whom sold to W. Hallsborough, London, in 1961;
Acquired shortly thereafter by the family of the present owner.

Exhibited

Hamburg, Bucerius Kunst Forum, Lucas Cranach: Glaube, Mythologie und Moderne, 6 April – 13 July 2003, no. 78.

Literature

M.J. Friedlander and J. Rosenberg, Die Gemalde von Lucas Cranach, Berlin 1932, cat. no. 198C;
D. Koepplin and T. Falk, Lukas Cranach. Gemalde, Zeichnungen und Druckgraphik, Basel/Stuttgart, 1974/76, cat. no. 578;
W. Schade, Die Malerfamilie Cranach, Dresden 1974, p. 69, reproduced p. 429;
M.J. Friedlander and J. Rosenberg, The Paintings of Lucas Cranach, London 1978, p. 78, cat. no. 42, reproduced;
W. Schade, Cranach: A Family of Master Painters, New York 1980 edition, p. 467, cat. no. 429b, reproduced p. 429;
W. Schade et. al., Lucas Cranach: Glaube, Mythologie und Moderne, exh. cat., Stuttgart 2003, cat. no. 78, reproduced p. 80;
G. Heydenreich, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Painting materials, techniques and workshop practice, Amsterdam 2007, p. 283, reproduced fig. 218.

Catalogue Note

This is one of the earliest known treatments of the classical subject of Lucretia by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Unanimously dated by scholars circa 1510-13, it was painted during the early years following Cranach’s arrival in Wittenberg in 1504 to work in the employ of the Electors of Saxony, and shortly after the conferral in 1508 by Duke Frederick the Wise of the coat of arms with the winged serpent device that would became the basis of the artist’s signature. Of all the known depictions of Lucretia by Cranach and his circle, this can be considered the most sensual and beautiful and it is a supreme example of the type of erotic historical painting produced for the artist’s private patrons, ironically right in the geographic and ideological heart of the Reformation, in the very court where Cranach’s great friend Martin Luther enjoyed the protection of the Electors of Saxony.

The painting was first published by Friedländer and Rosenberg in 1932, who identified the picture as an early work by Lucas Cranach the Elder and proposed a dating of circa 1510-13. A terminus ante quem is provided by the existence of a copy after Cranach’s original by his pupil Hans Döring, which is signed with his monogram HD and dated 1514, and is today in the Wiesbaden Museum.1 Cranach is known to have begun to develop his workshop by 1507 and the existence of Döring's copy attests to the practice of pupils copying the master’s originals, although the presence of the signature may have been a requisite to avoid any possible confusion with Cranach’s own or ‘approved’ studio versions.

In 1976 the present work was published by Koepplin and Falk, who likewise dated it circa 1510-13, and at the time believed it to be the earliest known treatment of the subject of Lucretia by the Elder Cranach. They tentatively associated the work with a possible pendant depicting the Old Testament figure Salome, today hanging in the Museu de Arte Antigua in Lisbon, in which the figure is similarly depicted, half-length (holding the head of Saint John the Baptist on a platter), against a black background, also wearing a choker set with precious stones.

In early 2012 another early treatment of Lucretia by Cranach the Elder appeared at auction in these rooms (fig. 1). Its dating of around 1509/10 places it as the earliest of Cranach's treatments of the figure of Lucretia.2 Both that painting and the present Lucretia share a great deal in common in design and handling. Both paintings depict the female heroine three-quarter length, in a similar pose, wearing a fur mantel and holding the dagger to her breast; the physiognomy is far more Italianate and naturalistic than the standard idealised courtly types that would dominate Cranach’s later treatments of the subject, and the features of the distinctive plump, rounded faces are rendered with remarkable detail and precision that suggest the use of real life models and lend a far greater sense of realism to the scene. The artist has made however a number of revisions to the earlier design, which gives the present version a heightened sense of drama and greater sensuality. Most strikingly, Lucretia is depicted with both breasts and the lower part of her midriff exposed, whilst her hair has been tied up and arranged in an elegant plat on her head. The artist has replaced the richly adorned sleeves in the earlier version with a simple white shirt that focuses the viewer on the strong vertical of the exposed body and the drama that is about to unfold. Moreover, Lucretia’s right hand, holding the dagger, has been turned over and her arm bent to give greater vigour and emphasis to the imminent thrust of the sharp blade, thereby heightening further the overall sense of drama.

For Cranach, the figure of Lucretia appears to have represented an embodiment of virtue rather than merely an historical figure. The story is taken from Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita. Lucretia was raped by Sextus Tarquinius, son of the last Roman king Tarquinius Superbus. Although her father and husband swore to avenge her, in order to fully expunge her dishonour, she committed suicide by stabbing herself. According to legend, the horror of the act and her extreme sense of honour spurred the aristocracy to rise up against the monarchy and establish the Roman Republic. She was therefore considered as an exemplar of the virtuous Roman wife and at the court in Wittenberg, with its emphasis of intellect and learning, her conduct was celebrated as one of the antique virtues.

Cranach’s fascination with the story of Lucretia is attested by the considerable number of treatments of the subject that he painted throughout his long career, with some 35 versions attributed to him or his circle. The present work appears to have enjoyed particular success and is known through numerous copies and derivations. In addition to the 1514 copy by Hans Döring there are workshop versions in the Kunstmuseum, Basel and the Crocker Art Gallery, Sacramento. The present work however, along with the earlier known treatment, stand alone as works of singular beauty and refinement within the artist’s numerous essays on the subject, and through the use of life-like models possess a sense of realism that is entirely absent in Cranach’s later treatments from the 1530s and 40s. What is common to all of the great German Renaissance master’s representations of the theme however is that the veneer of decency afforded by the historical subject does little to disguise the deeply erotic overtones of the scenes and it perhaps seems shocking that such images were deemed acceptable at the height of the Reformation and in the Saxon Court where Luther and Cranach lived and enjoyed a close friendship.

 

1. See Heydenreich 2007, p. 283, reproduced figure 219.
2. The painting was sold New York, Sotheby’s, 26 January 2012, lot 34, for $5,122,500 hammer.
3. See Friedländer and Rosenberg 1932, p. 39, under cat. no. 48.

 

Master Paintings Evening Sale

|
New York