Possibly the descendants of Sibilla Freiin von Schenck-Winterstein, with whom the sitter has been identified;
Private collection, Munich, by 1929;
Mr. Gifford A. Cochran, New York City and Lamoine, Maine, 1933;
With Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc., New York, by 1936;
Sir Thomas Merton, Maidenhead, Berkshire, before 1950;
By whom (anonymously) sold, London, Christie's, November 30, 1979, lot 28;
With Harari & Johns, Ltd., London;
From whom purchased by the present collector in November, 1989.
'Illustrierte Berichte aus Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Leipzig, London, München...' in Pantheon, vol. 3 (May 1929), p. 245, reproduced p. 243;
M.J. Friedlander and J. Rosenberg, Die Gemälde von Lucas Cranach, 1932, no. 238a;
C. L. Kuhn, A Catalogue of German Paintings of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in American Collections, Cambridge, Mass. 1936, p. 42, no. 124;
W. M. Millikin, 'Superb Art Display Marks Cleveland Museum's 20th Anniversary,' in The Art Digest, vol. x (July 1936), p. 11, reproduced front cover;
A. Scharf, A Catalogue of Pictures and Drawings from the Collection of Sir Thomas Merston, F.R.S. at Stubbings House, Maidenhead Thicket, England, Maidenhead 1950, p. 60, no. xxiv, reproduced;
G. Seligman, Merchants of Art: 1880-1960. Eighty Years of Professional Collecting, New York 1960, plate 61;
W. Schade, Die malerfamille Cranach, 1974, pl. 130;
M.J. Friedländer and J. Rosenberg, The Paintings of Lucas Cranach, London 1978, p. 127, no. 297, reproduced.
The Young Lady Holding Grapes and Apples is an elegant portrait characteristic of the style Cranach perfected during his years in Wittenberg. He had arrived in the city in 1505 and became court artist to the Electors of Saxony. In 1508 he was ennobled and awarded a coat-of-arms by Frederick the Wise, and he remained in the city until 1550 when his then patron, John Frederick, a nephew of Frederick the Wise, was captured by Charles V and exiled to Augsburg.
The sitter here, with her plumed hat, jeweled necklace and elaborate dress, is clearly from the aristocracy. Cranach takes great pains to describe the minute details of her costume in its splendid variety of colour and texture. In almost invisible brush strokes he paints the heavy velvet of her coat, which shades from dark brown to a rich red. He then adds bands of a lighter, satiny material with a fine embroidery pattern created in delicate lines of white paint. Her necklace and bodice are equally complex, while her blouse is so transparent as to barely be visible. In contrast to all this finery, are the translucent grapes, whose smooth surface reflects an unseen window, somewhere in our space.
There are, however, few clues to the identity of the sitter. Early in the twentieth century the name Sibilla Freiin von Schenck-Winterstein was associated with the Young Lady Holding Grapes, but it is not clear whether that was the name of the sitter, of an earlier owner, or both. While Cranach's portraits of men are very individualized, his portraits of young women seem more a type than a specific person. With her flat cheek bones, slanted eyes and cupid's bow mouth the sitter here could be sisters with a number of other young women in paintings in Copenhagen, Prague, and even the enigmatic Woman Holding a Baby on a Napkin in Eisenach1. But equally she can be related to group of Biblical figures and mythological women.
It is perhaps this latter relationship and the sitter's unusual gesture of holding fruit in her apron that led to speculation that this was originally not a portrait. It has been suggested that it was a painting of Judith holding the head of Holofernes, though Salome with the head of John the Baptist or Jael with the head of Sisera are equally possible. Cranach painted these subjects numerous times, and in almost all versions shows the heroine in hip length, turned three quarters to the left holding the head of the victim in front of her. Most even include a window with a view of a mountainous landscape beyond, as in Judith with the Head of Holofernes in Berlin. However, neither ultraviolet examination nor x-ray of the present painting has revealed anything to suggest that there was something other than fruit in the sitter's apron.
However, the line between portraiture and history painting was more fluid in the early sixteenth century than it is today. It was a period when donors were still included within an altarpiece, occupying the same space and time as the Biblical figures. So it is not surprising that Cranach would use the same pose and same setting for a portrait of a beautiful young woman as for a Biblical heroine, and his audience in the court would have recognized this. In doing so he moves her from the worldly plane into the ideal, as may be suggested by the prominent church steeples in the background.
1 See Literature, Friedländer-Rosenberg 1978, nos. 173, 178 and 170, respectively, all reproduced.
2 Ibid.p.127, no.297, as well as in the earlier literature.
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