Cranach - Friedrich the Wise in Veneration of the Apocalyptical Mother of God
Friedrich the Wise in Veneration of the Apocalyptical Mother of God
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe
16.05.2022 - 08:16
Choose objects with for comparison
CDA ID / Inventory NumberDE_SKK_2749
Persistent Link
FR (1978) No.FR083
Friedrich the Wise in Veneration of the Apocalyptical Mother of God[Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, revised 2011]
The Virgin on a Crescent Moon, venerated by Friedrich the Wise[Friedländer, Rosenberg 1978, no. 83]
Hide content...
Lucas Cranach the Elder [Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, revised 2011]
about 1515[Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, revised 2011]
about 1516[Friedländer, Rosenberg 1978, No. 83]
about 1515 - 1516[Böhlitz 2005, 31]
Hide content...
Owner / Repository / Location:
OwnerStaatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe
RepositoryStaatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe
Dimensions of support: 114.5 x 90 cm (transferred from wood onto canvas)
[Heydenreich, cda 2011]
Painting originally on wood, transferred to canvas in 1925
[Heydenreich, cda 2011]
Signature / Date:
Friedrich the Wise kneels in prayer on the left behind a prayer stool, which is covered with a dark red velvet throw. He looks to the right where the crowned Virgin stands on a crescent moon with the Christ Child against a gilded background. She is surrounded by dark blue clouds, which are enlivened by putti and angels' heads. Both the end of the white cloth in which the Virgin holds the child and Jesus himself seem to move in the direction of the praying figure. St Bartholomew stands behind him reading a book and has a knife in his hand. Behind the saint there is an area with blackish-gold brocade, which is separated from the gilding behind the Virgin by a thin dark brown stripe.
[Görres, cda 2012]
- Aschaffenburg, collection of Rentamtmann Kees
- Darmstadt, collection of Geheimrat Schäfer
- Berlin, Julius Böhler
- Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle, on loan from Frau Haberstock
[Friedländer, Rosenberg 1978, No. 83]
- Karlsruhe 1992
- Munich 2006
Sources / Publications:
Reference on PageCatalogue NumberFigure/Plate
Cat. Coburg 2018123, fn. 11under no. 22
Exhib. Cat. Gotha, Kassel 2015103under Nos. 6, 7
Messling 2010158
Böhlitz 200531, 39 Fn. 28
Bambach-Horst 199487-89
Exhib. Cat. Karlsruhe 199273-7912
Cat. Karlsruhe 198855
Strieder 1975170
Exhib. Cat. Basel 1974489-490No. 339Fig. 268
Friedländer, Rosenberg 193276
Flechsig 1900 Bpl. 20
Exhib. Cat. Dresden 1899128
Interpretation / History / Discussion:

Friedrich the Wise in Veneration of the Apocalyptical Mother of God

The Saxon Elector Friedrich III. (1463-1525), known as ‚the Wise‘, is one of the most interesting figures of early modern German history: educated and appreciative of art, power-conscious and peace-loving, unconventional and devout. He was the patron of the Reformation and remained faithful to the old faith. He was firmly focused both on this world and the next. Cranach’s painting in Karlsruhe gives expression to this awareness of ‚time and eternity‘ with an impressive pictorial metaphor.
Friedrich the Wise is depicted kneeling in front of a prayer stool. He wears rings on his fingers and his hands are folded in an attitude of prayer. He wears a shirt embroidered with pearls and a wide cloak with a fur-collar, puffed sleeves and gold decoration. The carefully kempt beard is also in keeping with contemporary male fashion as is the golden net bonnet. The personal patron of the praying prince, the apostle Batholomew , stands behind him. He is absorbed in the Holy Scriptures, which he holds in his hands, together with a knife, which recalls his terrible martyrdom: according to legend the King of Armenia had the missionary apostle flayed. Friedrich was proud that he had a piece of his facial skin in his reliquary.
More than half of the painting is occupied by a vision: the Mother of God appears before Friedrich‘s spiritual eye as the ‚apocalyptical woman‘ in accordance with the description in St John’s revelation: the Virgin stands on a crescent moon with the Child in her arms. She is ‘clothed with the sun’ – this is given expression by Cranach through the gilding with punched rays pointing in all directions – and wears a crown as befits the Queen of Heaven. She is identified as ‚domina angelorum‘ or Lady of the Angels by the circle of clouds around her, in which 25 putti romp.
Two spheres – a worldly and a transcendent-saintly – interpenetrate: the apostle has entered Friedrich’s devotional chamber, which is decorated with precious brocade. The knife – his attribute – and the prayer stool establish the link to the vision of the Virgin. The small chamber is filled with a surreal radiance and becomes infinite.

Friedrich the Wise was one of the most influential princes in the empire. In 1519 he assisted the young Habsburg Charles V. to become emperor. Soon afterwards he protected Luther and defied the pope. Here he appears very humble – kneeling before a higher power: the ‘regina coelorum’ and her son, the universal ruler. The elector displays his veneration both with seriousness and intimacy. However he does allow his court painter Cranach to depict the Christ Child turning towards him, almost reaching out to him. This gesture is underlined by the white cloth, which billows down towards the prince: Friedrich appears blessed he enjoys the protection and goodwill of Christ. The painting is as such – like Friedrich’s famous collection of relics – a testimony of faith and representation.

Holger Jacob-Friesen
Material / Technique:
  • Date: 07. 2011
  • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
  • Infrared reflectography
  • Lucas Cranach the Elder - Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe - Friedrich the Wise in Veneration of the Apocalyptical Mother of God - Infrared Images
  • 8.03 Underdrawing

    - fluid, black medium and brush

    - detailed and freehand underdrawing
    - thin lines

    - relatively binding for the final painted version; lines delineate contours and describe the essential details and the facial features; no representation of volume

    - alterations made during the painting process to clearly define form; changes (e.g. the head of Friedrich the Wise, the right hand and cloth of the Virgin)


    - Lucas Cranach the Elder

    [Smith, Sandner, Heydenreich, cda 2012]
  • 8.03 Underdrawing
  • - freehand underdrawing in a fluid black pigmented medium (possibly also partially with a pen), deviations in the final painted version are particulary visible in the head of the elector (originally looking up, probably towards the Mother of God) and the hands of the Virgin (her right hand originally embraced the infant Christ)
    [Heydenreich, cda 2011]
    • photographed by: Gunnar Heydenreich
    • photographed by: Ingo Sandner