The story of the raising of Lazarus is illustrated by a composition containing many figures. In the centre of the image the risen Lazarus sits at the edge of his open grave, with his left foot at the bottom narrow edge and his right foot supported by the rim of the grave. Lazarus still wears the burial shroud that covers his lap, back and forehead. His hands are held in an attitude of prayer and he gazes reverently at Christ, who stands opposite him at the bottom narrow edge of the grave. Lazarus¿ grave was opened at Christ¿s behest and his right foot rests on the stone ledger. The resulting stance lends Christ an active bearing as does the act of blessing performed with his left hand, which can also be read as an indication to the risen one. The year 1558 and a serpent insignia with birds¿ wings can be found on the ledger. Christ¿s face reveals a serene gentleness and his head is surrounded by an unobtrusive aureole. Five women directly behind the grave have fallen to their knees while witnessing the miracle; full of awe the two at the front, who can be identified as the sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, gaze up at Christ. In the light of the accomplished miracle even the group of disciples behind Christ is in turmoil.[...]
In the painting the group of disciples ends with the figure of St Paul at the left edge. He turns towards the group on the right, while pointing in the opposite direction with his right hand. With this gesture Cranach not only creates a connection to the group of kneeling women, but also repeats a variant form of Christ¿s gesture. This repetition embeds both corner points of the figurative group in a stable framework and separates it from the other male figures in the background. This group has entered the areal through a renaissance portal in front of which a wall overgrown with vines extends on both sides. Beyond the wall a view of a landscape is visible on the left and on the right a very prominent castle complex can been seen on top of a hill. One figure in the centre of the group covers her nose and mouth with her robe to protect herself from the smell of the corpse, which was explicitly mentioned in St John¿s Gospel.
The foreground is occupied by the donor family. The head of the family Michael Meyenburg (d. 1555) kneels in an attitude of prayer to the left of the centre. He was born in 1491 in Steinau, Hessen and after studying law began his career as a lower town clerk and as syndic and mayor from 1540 became a formative figure in the free imperial city of Nordhausen. Cranach depicts him with both sober and serious features. The Meyenburg¿s coat-of-arms, conferred by Charles V, is represented at the bottom edge of the painting. Behind him are gathered the eight male off-springs. As is illustrated in the image three of his sons died in childhood. [¿] the right side of the foreground is occupied by the female branch of the Meyenburg family. The daughter Ursula kneels at the front, opposite her father, while Meyenburg¿s two wives are positioned behind. Meyenburg¿s first wife Ursula Lachenbeck kneels positioned slightly further back. She was the daughter of the Fugger hat manufacturer Mattias Lachenbeck from Gotha. [¿] Anna Reinicke together with her family coat-of-arms occupies the bottom right corner of the composition. She was the daughter of Luther¿s childhood friend, Johannes Reinicke, the hat manufacturer and copper merchant from Eisenach, and Meyenburg¿s second wife. The whole family kneels on a narrow strip at the bottom edge of the painting. The detailed and rich vegetation sets it apart from the barren condition of the ground in the burial site, but nevertheless creates a consistent common pictorial space.
To the left of the biblical event is a group of prominent representatives of the reformation and humanism. It is also part of this pictorial space even if compositionally clearly separated from the rest of the figures. In the first row Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon are positioned opposite each other, portraits of Caspar Cruciger, Justus Jonas, Erasmus of Rotterdam and Johannes Bugenhagen are placed next to each other to the left of Melanchthon. These can be clearly identified by their portraits as can Johann Forster, who can be seen behind Luther with a beard and a fur cloak. The remaining three men, whose faces are cropped, cannot be so readily identified. It is most likely that the face visible between Forster and Luther is that of Georg Spalatin.
[Görres 2015 A, 245-247]