THE MASTER OF THE LOCKINGE COURTSHIP PANELACTIVE IN GERMANY, FIRST HALF OF THE 16TH CENTURY'Courtship' or 'The Offer of Love'
- 'Courtship' or 'The Offer of Love'
- oil on oak panel
- 59.4 x 39 cm.; 23 3/8 x 15 3/8 in.
His posthumous sale, Berlin, Müller, 18 October 1847 and following days, lot 108 (as Gerhard van Leyden);
Samuel Jones Loyd, later 1st Baron Overstone (1796–1883) by 1867;
Thence by inheritance to his son-in-law Brigadier-General Robert Loyd-Lindsay, 1st Baron Wantage, VC, KCB, VD (1832–1901), Lockinge, Oxfordshire;
Thence by descent to the present owner.
Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, on loan (as Lucas Cranach the Elder and studio).
A.G. Temple, Catalogue of the Pictures forming the Collection of Lord and Lady Wantage, London 1902, p. 85, no. 133 (as Gerhard van Leyden);
L. Parris (ed.), The Loyd Collection of Paintings and Drawings at Betterton House, Lockinge near Wantage, Berkshire, London 1967, p. 14, no. 18 (as follower of Cranach);
F. Russell, The Loyd Collection of Paintings, Drawings and Sculptures, 1991, p. 6, no. 18, reproduced plate 13 (as circle of Lucas Cranach I).
Despite its evident charms, the author of this engaging panel has long eluded identification. When in the celebrated collection of Baron Nagler in Berlin, the panel was ascribed to the mysterious ‘Gerhard van Leyden’, a painter who is not otherwise recorded and who is likely to be entirely fictitious. In his overall composition the Lockinge Master was clearly indebted to Albrecht Dürer’s engraving of The Ill-Assorted Couple or The Offer of Love produced in 1495 (fig.1), wherein the motifs of the seated couple in a landscape and the tethered horse are all to be found. It was the great scholar of early Northern painting Dr F.G. Grossmann, who first observed that the Loyd panel, which he thought was ’…certainly German’ was also ‘very close to Lucas Cranach the Elder’.1 As he noted, the landscape format, with the prominent central tree with its detailed foliage and distant elevated castle are highly characteristic elements of many landscape panels containing both secular and mythological subjects produced by Lucas Cranach (1472–1553) and his workshop in Saxony. A very good example of such a landscape may be found in his Mary Magdalene of 1525 in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne.2 The motifs of the mossy tree trunk and the tethered horse seems to have been lifted almost directly from Cranach’s early panel of the Judgement of Paris, painted around 1510–12, sold in these Rooms on 11 December 1996, lot 48, and today in the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth (fig. 2).3 Grossmann also pointed out the similarities between the lady’s face in the Lockinge panel and those in Cranach’s Holy Kinship altarpiece in the Akademie in Vienna, which is of much the same date.4 It thus seems reasonable to assume that the Lockinge Master may have come into contact with the work of Lucas Cranach in the second or third decades of the sixteenth century, most probably, given the picture’s known history, in Germany. As Grossmann observed, on stylistic grounds this panel can probably be dated around 1525–30. A similar adoption of Cranach’s compositions elsewhere in Germany at this date may be seen, for example, in Mattias Gerung’s panel of 1537 depicting Lot and his daughters in the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart.5 We are also grateful to Dr Dieter Koepplin for suggesting a tentative attribution on the basis of photographs to Hans Kemmer (fl. c. 1495–1561), one of Cranach's most able pupils, who lived and worked in Lübeck in northern Germany. Some of the physiognomies in his signed Christ and the Adulteress of 1530 in the St Annen Museum in Lubeck, for example, may be compared to those in the present work.
Although paintings of couples in a landscape such as this would have been quite familiar to the sixteenth-century viewer, it would more commonly have been in the context used by Dürer in his engraving, namely that of the ‘ill-matched’ or ‘unequal couple'. Depictions of an engagement or offer of marriage outside of formal marriage portraits are, by contrast, seemingly very rare in this period. The most famous is probably a Netherlandish rather than a German work, namely Lucas van Leyden’s panel of The Betrothal of 1527 in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Strasbourg (fig. 3).6 The old attribution of the Loyd panel to the fictitious ‘Gerhard van Leyden’ may, of course, be a mistaken reference to Lucas himself. An early copy of Lucas’s panel, formerly in the Morris collection in London, introduces a figure of a jester carrying a banderole with the warning: ‘Lengthy regret is better than hasty marriage’, but it seems unlikely that the Lockinge panel carries an admonishment of this sort.
Note on Provenance
The first recorded owner of this painting, Karl Ferdinand Friedrich von Nagler (1770–1846), was a Minister of State and later Postmaster General of Prussia (fig. 4). His collection was diverse and assembled mostly during his travels abroad between 1811 and 1821; it included paintings, drawings, prints, coins, medals, ethnographic objects and Egyptian antiquities. In 1835 he sold the majority of his collection to the Prussian State, where the important group of Old Master prints formed a mainstay of the collection in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin. His collection of paintings, chiefly works of the early Netherlandish and German schools, was sold after his death in 1846.
This painting had entered the collections of Lord Overstone by 1867, when according to family records at Lockinge it was ‘repaired by Anthony’. Although Overstone’s chief interest was in works of the Dutch and Italian schools, his taste was sufficiently wide-ranging to include some early Netherlandish and German paintings, then largely overlooked by collectors. The latter included, for example, two very early panels by Lucas Cranach the Elder depicting St Geneviève and St Appollonia and St Christina and Saint Ottilia, which formed the backs of the wings to his St Catherine Altarpiece of 1506, the central panel and outsides of the wings of which are preserved in the Staatliche Gemäldegalerie in Dresden.7 An equally fascinating picture was his fifteenth-century Bavarian Portrait of Alexander Mornauer by the so-called Master of the Mornauer portrait (formerly thought to be Christoph Amberger), which Overstone had bought in the 1860s as a portrait of Martin Luther by Albrecht Dürer.8 All three paintings are now at the National Gallery in London.
1 Letter of 6 August 1965, cited by Parris 1965, p. 14.
2 M.J. Friedländer and J. Rosenberg, The Paintings of Lucas Cranach, London 1978, p. 103, no. 168, reproduced.
3 This humorous erotic symbolism is a recurrent theme in many of Cranach’s paintings of the Judgement of Paris.
4 Friedländer and Rosenberg 1978, p. 75, no. 34, reproduced.
5 See E. Rettich, 'Altdeutsche Gemälde’, in Saatsgalerie, Stuttgart. Alte Meister, Stuttgart 1992, pp. 140–41, reproduced.
6 E. Lawton Smith, The Paintings of Lucas van Leyden, Columbia 1992, p. 176, cat. no. 44, reproduced fig. 26.
7 Friedländer and Rosenberg 1978, p. 69, no. 15, reproduced.
8 Parris 1967, p. 29, no. 44, reproduced.