Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 5:36 AM
Cranach was famous for the speed at which he worked (on his tomb he was described as 'Pictor celerrimus' swiftest of painters) and his output was enormous. His early paintings, such as The Penance of St Jerome and The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, show more individuality of touch than his later works, but even when he was running what was virtually a picture factory at the height of his very successful career, he was such a skilled manager and craftsman that his standards remained high.
He tackled most subjects - from conventional religious subjects such as The Virgin of the Grapes to courtly commissions such as The Stag Hunt, and from mythologies such as The Judgement of Paris to humorous moralizing scenes such as The Fee. Although he excelled in so many fields, it is perhaps as a painter of alluring women that he is most memorable. Judging from the number of copies and versions, the Reclining Water Nymph and Judith were two subjects his contemporaries demanded continually.
The great scholar St Jerome (342-420) spent four years as a hermit in the desert, where he said he had 'only the scorpions and wild beasts for company'. Like many other ascetic saints (notably St Anthony), he had vivid sexual hallucinations, and he described how he would beat his chest until he had overcome them. He does not mention that he used a stone to chastise himself, but it became a convention to portray him holding one.
The subject of The Rest on the Flight into Egypt gave artists the opportunity to portray the Holy Family in a landscape setting. Cranach was particularly interested in landscape early in his career, and here created an almost fairytale atmosphere with the lush foliage and brilliant, luminous colours. This is Cranach's earliest signed work - his monogram is on a stone in the foreground.
The grape was a common symbol in medieval and Renaissance painting. It symbolized the wine of the Eucharist and therefore the blood of Christ. St Augustine wrote 'Jesus is the grape of the Promised Land, the bunch that has been put under the wine-press', by which he meant that Christ's blood would be spilt.
Judith was a Jewish biblical heroine who infiltrated the camp of Holofernes, an Assyrian general who was besieging her city. She charmed him, got him drunk and then beheaded him. The story was seen as symbolizing the triumph of virtue over vice, but also often served as a pretext, as here, to paint a beautifully seductive woman.
Hunting was a favourite pursuit of noblemen and Cranach painted several pictures of the subject for his courtly patrons. This one shows the Emperor Maximilian I and the Electors Frederick the Wise and John the Steadfast among the hunters. Neither 1Maximilian nor Frederick were alive at the time the picture was painted, so it was probably commissioned by John the Steadfast. The high viewpoint has allowed Cranach to set out the various incidents of the hunt with almost comic-strip clarity.
In the foreground, God confronts Adam and Eve after they have eaten the forbidden fruit, and in the background Cranach has shown various other scenes from the Genesis narrative. From right to left, they are: the Creation of Adam, the Temptation, the Creation of Eve, the Discovery of the Sinners and the Expulsion from Paradise. Cranach was a brilliant painter of animals and seems to have enjoyed himself portraying the beasts in the Garden of Eden here, particularly the delightful bears.
Writer - Marshall Cavendish