13
13
After Lucas Cranach the Elder (circa 1472-1553)
Southern or Central German, early 16th century
RELIEF WITH THE WEREWOLF AND SAINT GEORGE
JUMP TO LOT
13
After Lucas Cranach the Elder (circa 1472-1553)
Southern or Central German, early 16th century
RELIEF WITH THE WEREWOLF AND SAINT GEORGE
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art

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After Lucas Cranach the Elder (circa 1472-1553)
Southern or Central German, early 16th century
RELIEF WITH THE WEREWOLF AND SAINT GEORGE
gilt and polychromed limewood, with a modern velvet covered wood stand
relief: 100 by 97cm., 39 3/8  by 38 1/4 in.
stand: 113 by 103.5 cm., 44 1/2  by 40 3/4 in. 
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Provenance

With Brimo de Laroussilhe, Paris;
collection Mas, Barcelona;
the present owner, France

Exhibited

Barcelona, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, El Salvatge Europeu (The European Savage) 18 February - 23 May 2004;
Valencia, Fundación Bancaja, El Salvaje Europeo (The European Savage), 23 May - 29 August 2004

Literature

'Beaux objets sur le marché', L’ Œil, December 1965, N°132, p.48-49;
P. Pedraza and R. Bartra, El Salvatge Europeu, exh. cat. Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona and Fundación Bancaja, Barcelona, 2004, p. 14;
P. Pedraza and R. Bartra, El Salvaje Europeo, exh. cat. Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona and Fundación Bancaja, Valencia, 2004, pp. 18-19

Catalogue Note

This astonishing relief depicts a rare subject matter: the German Werewolf. It copies an enigmatic woodcut by the Saxon court painter Lucas Cranach the Elder (an example of the print is in the British Museum, inv. no. 1854,1113.160). Dated to the second decade of the 16th century, Cranach’s print shows an unkempt, hairy man with large hands and feet on all fours, devouring a small child in whose back he has bitten a bloody wound. Dismembered victims are scattered in the landscape, while the background depicts a barn with alarmed onlookers, and a boy playing with his dog. The scene is adapted from the print in the left side of the present relief, with the curious addition of a small child swinging on a helmet that hangs from the tree.

The right hand side of the relief depicts scenes from the legend of Saint George and the Dragon. At the front of this panel, the princess kneels in the cave of the dragon; at the centre, the Saint is shown on horseback with the princess, having rescued her from her plight; while above, the princess's parents watch from the tower. Though Saint George and the Dragon is the subject of another print by Cranach, it does not seem to have inspired the present relief, except perhaps in the figure of the kneeling princess. 

Cranach's Werewolf woodcut has been associated with the sermons of Johann Geiler von Kaisersberg (1445-1510), published in Strasbourg in 1516. In these, Geiler preaches about different kinds of Wild Men, which were popularised in folklore. Among Werewolves (Wolf Men) Geiler identifies a subcategory: men possessed by the Devil, who merely imagine to be wolves and devour children (see Koepplin and Falk, op. cit., p. 594). This is consistent with the depiction of a monster in human form seen in the Cranach print and the relief. The subject may thus be regarded as an allegory of Evil, which is here juxtaposed with the heroic and chivalric figure of Saint George, who defeats the dragon, a personification of Evil.

The practice of copying contemporary prints in carved wood reliefs became widespread in early 16th-century Germany, dominated by works based on woodcuts by Albrecht Dürer (see examples illustrated in Beck and Decker, op. cit., pp. 36-46). The present relief appears to be the only known sculptural work that illustrates Cranach's Werewolf and is therefore a rare and important survival. 

RELATED LITERATURE
D. Koepplin and T. Falk, Lucas Cranach: Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Graphik, exh. cat. Kunstmuseum Basel, 1974, vol. 2, p. 594, no. 488; H. Beck and B. Decker (eds.), Dürers Verwandlung in der Skulptur zwischen Renaissance und Barock, exh. cat. Liebieghaus, Frankfurt am Main, 1981

Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art

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