Lucas Cranach, the Elder
Saint Christopher (Exterior Left Wing)
Oil on panel. 85 x 31 cm
Lucas Cranach the Elder was one of the most important artists of the German Renaissance together with Albrecht Dürer. Associated with the ideas of the Protestant Reformation he nonetheless worked for Catholic clients and his output includes religious compositions, portraits and prints. These four panels were part of a triptych whose central image is now lost. The exterior left wing depicts Saint Christopher with the Christ Child on his shoulders and a tree trunk that he uses to wade the river. The right wing depicts Saint George in armour standing on the dragon that he has defeated. Both saints look out at the viewer, capturing our attention. The inside left wing depicts Saint Elizabeth reading, with Duke George of Saxony in the lower part, while the right interior wing has Saint Anne with her hands crossed on her breast, accompanied by Duchess Barbara of Saxony. The two donors are shown kneeling with their hands joined in prayer and their bodies outlined against the dark background of the wall that separates them from the accompanying saints. Isolde Lübbeke considered that the striking difference in proportion between the Duke and Duchess and the saints reflected the patron’s instructions. The panels are considered to have been painted after Cranach’s trip to the Low Countries due to the way the figures are modelled and the nature of the composition.