Lot 5
  • 5

Lucas Cranach the Elder

200,000 - 300,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Lucas, the elder Cranach
  • Madonna and Child
  • signed with the artist's device of a winged serpent with elevated wings upper right
  • oil on panel


Dr. Paul Wangemann, Aachen;
Cologne, Lempertz, 13-21 April 1920, lot 2299 (as School of Thuringia, at the time of Lucas Cranach the Elder);
Otto-Wilhelm Sohn Rethel, Düsseldorf;
Anonymous sale ("The Property of a Gentleman"), London, Sotheby's, 10 December 1975, lot 71, for £7,500 (as Lucas Cranach the Elder);
Anonymous sale, Vienna, Dorotheum, 30 November 1976, lot 19, for ATS 900,000 (as Lucas Cranach the Elder);
German private collection.


M.J. Friedländer and J. Rosenberg, Die Gemälde von Lucas Cranach, Berlin 1932, p. 88, cat. no. 317B (as probably by Lucas Cranach the Younger);
M.J. Friedländer and J. Rosenberg, The Paintings of Lucas Cranach, London 1979, p. 148, cat. no. 393B (as "Likely to be by Lucas Cranach, but attributed orally by D. Koepplin to the Master of the Fluffy Hair“).


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work seems to have been restored. It is painted on a single piece of unreinforced oak. The paint layer is stable. Under ultraviolet light, the varnish that has been applied is quite fluorescent. However, one can see small accurate retouches on the right side of the Madonna's face on the right side of her nose. There are similar small retouches in the forehead of Christ and in his right cheek. There are also retouches on his right shin and behind his left knee. The extreme edges have received a few retouches. There seem to be small retouches around the head of the figures in the background. The varnish is slightly dense for such a fine work. It may be prudent to clean this work and be more focused about the varnish and retouching. However, the work is certainly presentable as is.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

This small and intimate depiction of the Virgin holding the Christ Child is a late work by Lucas Cranach the Elder. The form of the signature post-dates 1537, when the busy and successful workshop had been taken over by the artist's son, Lucas Cranach the Younger. Professor Werner Schade, who knows the painting from photographs, believes it to be the work of the father, rather than the son, and praises it as one of the best paintings of reduced format from the artist's mature phase, datable between 1537 and 1553, the year of Cranach's death. 

A very similar panel of almost identical dimensions, which is in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen (inv. no. RCIN 407818), can be dated to 1547 but should be considered the work of the Younger Cranach. Dr Michael Hofbauer, who knows the present painting from images, proposes that Cranach the Elder kept small panels such as the present work for use as workshop templates or for the studio to produce variants of given prototypes. Dr Hofbauer notes in particular the energy of the signature and the pronounced earlobes, both features of the Elder Cranach's work. He also stresses the extremely high quality of the present work and the probable execution by the father himself, but believes that in general in Cranach's oeuvre it is impossible to differentiate between his hand and those of the workshop.

Dr. Dieter Koepplin, also on the basis of photographs, believes the work to have probably been painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder, praising the "excellent quality," and proposing a date of execution of circa 1545.

We are grateful to Dr. Werner Schade, Dr. Dieter Koepplin and Dr. Michael Hofbauer for their kind assistance in preparing this entry.