53 paintings for the balustrade gallery of the former Marienkirche in Dessau illustrating subjects from the old and new testaments commissioned in 1553 by Duke Georg III of Anhalt. Cranach the Younger's signature 'LVCAS CRANACH DER MITLER MAL.[ER]' and the family coat of arms, the winged serpent, are on 'The Last Judgment', which was the last picture in the series. Sadly the entire series was destroyed together with the church during World War Two.
Various donors provided funding for the 53 works and some were represented in the paintings with their portraits. The donors' coats of arms and a short text with their name and title were added to the bottom of each image. Georg III of Anhalt, his brothers and other family members are represented most frequently. However the nobility of Anhalt and the courtiers of Dessau were also involved. The inscriptions and coats of arms were painted on paper and stuck onto the bottom of the painting after completion.
The donors not only paid for their assigned paintings, but also provided financial support for the whole building.
[Tacke 1994, 84-86]
The cycle began with the most easterly image on the South side and continued over the west gallery to the North side:
This painting depicts: Martyrdom of Judas Thaddaeus; simplified composition after the woodcut Hollstein 63
Inscription: 'VALTEN METBACH VOGT:/' on the back wall: 'S: JUDAS TADDEVS'
Coat of arms, tierced: top field: a brown horn on gold ground between green clove leaves; central field: white; bottom field: green clove leaf on red ground; mantling: red and gold; crest: post horn.
The donor was a member the court of Duke Johann of Anhalt
[Harksen 1937, 25]