Cranach - Virgin and Child in front of a Curtain held up by Angels
Virgin and Child in front of a Curtain held up by Angels
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Städel Museum Frankfurt a.M.
25.02.2020 - 22:22
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CDA ID / Inventory NumberDE_SMF_847
Persistent Link
FR (1978) No.FR162A
Virgin and Child in front of a Curtain held up by Angels[Cat. Frankfurt 2005, 173-180]
Lucas Cranach the Elder [Cat. Frankfurt 2005, 173-180]
about 1527 - 1530[Cat. Frankfurt 2005, 173-180]
Owner / Repository / Location:
OwnerStädel Museum Frankfurt a.M.
RepositoryStädel Museum Frankfurt a.M.
LocationFrankfurt am Main
Dimensions of support: 82.2 x 56.4 x 1.1 cm [Cat. Frankfurt 2005, 173-180] Dimensions of painted surface: 81.4 x 56.4 cm [Cat. Frankfurt 2005, 173-180]
Painting on beech wood [Cat. Frankfurt 2005, 173-180] [Klein, Report 1995]
Signature / Date:
Artist's insignia on the left: winged serpent with steeply elevated wings [Cat. Frankfurt 2005, 173-180]
Inscriptions, Marks, Labels, Seals:
Reverse of the panel: paper with blue boarder, printed with 'No', written in black ink '847'. [Cat. Frankfurt 2005, 173-180]
Two putti hold up a mid-green curtain against a neutral blue backdrop and are themselves partially concealed by it. One of them is in the top left corner and pulls the cloth with his raised left hand almost to the top edge of the painting, while holding it at about chest height with his right hand. The diagonal course of the stretched edge of the cloth between his hands leaves a triangle in the corner free, which is occupied by his head, torso and wings. In addition his right leg is visible in front of the curtain on the left edge of the painting; and his concealed left knee is visible through the curtain above Christ's head. The second putto in the top right corner is considerably more concealed. He grasps the curtain from behind, so that his fingers are only visible from the knuckles and pull the hem up to the tip of his nose. Only the top half of his head and his wings rise above the curtain. In front of the curtain the Mother of God with the Christ Child are depicted as a knee-length figurative group. The Virgin is sitting almost frontally, with a slight inclination of her body to the left: her left knee appears to have shifted into the frontal plane, her left leg is positioned at an angle to the left, whereas her right leg is stretched out. Her left elbow also projects forward, whereas her right hand is positioned further back. She has turned her head to the left as she is also inclined in this direction. As such she moves closer to the Christ Child supported by her left hand under his right thigh and protectively embraced with her right hand on the side exposed to the viewer. The child is completely naked and is shown almost in profile. He stands on his left leg on his mother's thigh; he supports his bent right leg on her left hand. Climbing he stretches his face up towards his mother, and touches her on the cheek with his hand, while feeling her neck with his open right hand. He gazes diagonally upwards into his mother's eyes; here the curiosity of the small child, which is mixed with tenderness, is given appropriate expression. The Virgin wears a vermilion red cloak over a simple blue smock. It covers her left shoulder and her knee, while the green lining acts as a foil behind her raised arm and the child on the left of the painting. The lining of the broad sleeves of the smock create a further colour accent, revealing a luminous orange-red colour. The Virgin's long blond hair falls in thick curls; except for a single strand which is combed behind her ear, it creates an expansive boarder along the Virgin's shoulder. The composition shows the artist's endeavours to break with the symmetrical layout dictated by the subject and to introduce movement and tension into the static group. A consequence of this is the contraposto of the two putti in the corners holding the curtain. Indeed the position of the Virgin who sits turned slightly to one side, the slight shift of the centre of activity to the left and the assymetrical distribution of the colours also serve this purpose. Despite a slight opening on the left, the unity of the group is emphasized by the arrangement of the draperies, the protective embrace of the Virgin and the position of the child. Although the asymmetry is striking in comparison with other depictions of the Virgin by Cranach - see the painting in Erfurt -, an additional missing second panel or portrait of a praying donor should not be considered here. [Cat. Frankfurt 2005, 173-180]
02/07/1833: purchased from the art dealer Metzler in Mainz
- Dresden 1899, No. 83
Sources / Publications:
Reference on PageCatalogue NumberFigure/Plate
Exhib. Cat. Frankfurt 2007254p. 254
Cat. Frankfurt 2005173-180
Cat. Frankfurt 199929pl. 15
Friedländer, Rosenberg 1979103162A
Wolters 1938124Figs. 75, 76
Friedländer, Rosenberg 1932138B
Michaelson 190263, 67, 86
Cat. Frankfurt 190074-7586
Flechsig 1900 A253, 278
Cat. Dresden 18996083
Janitschek 1890492
Schuchardt 1851 C59298
Material / Technique:
  • Date: 01.03.2013
  • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
  • Infrared reflectography
  • Lucas Cranach the Elder - Städel Museum Frankfurt a.M. - Virgin and Child in front of a Curtain held up by Angels - Infrared Images
  • Underdrawing

    - fluid, black medium; brush and pen?

    - freehand schematic underdrawing (where visible)
    - thin lines (visible on Christ’s foot and the arrangement of the folds on the left)

    - relatively binding for the final painted version; no representation of volume

    - almost no adjustments made during the painting process


    - workshop Lucas Cranach the Elder

    - in addition Brinkmann and Kemperdick [Cat. Frankfurt 2005, 173–174] have identified a red chalk underdrawing
    [Smith, Sandner, Heydenreich cda 2014]
    • photographed by: Städel Museum Frankfurt a.M.
    • Date: 2005
    • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
    • X-radiography
    • [Cat. Frankfurt 2005, 173-180]
        • Date: 2005
        • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
        • Identification of wood species / Dendrochronology
        • Support
        • Dendrochronological analysis showed that the earliest annual ring is from the year 1513. Both planks are from the same tree as planks I and II of the painting 'Adam and Eve' [DE_smbGG_566_FR198C] by Cranach now in Berlin. Here the earliest annual ring is dated 1525 and therefore this later date must be taken as the earliest felling date. As the entire transverse section was employed and taking a seasoning period of c. two years into consideration it can be assumed that 1527 is the earliest possible date of creation for the painting.
          [Cat. Frankfurt 2005, 173-180]
            • Date: 2005
            • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
            • Infrared reflectography
            • Lucas Cranach the Elder - Städel Museum Frankfurt a.M. - Virgin and Child in front of a Curtain held up by Angels - Reverse
            • Support
            • two vertically aligned planks (widths from left to right):
              Plank I: top 23.5; bottom 24.4 cm
              Plank II: top 33.2; bottom 32.6 cm, right-angled groove along the side edges
            • Underdrawing
            • An underdrawing is not visible in the infrared reflectogram; however occasional reddish, brown lines are visible with the naked eye, these agitated strokes appear to more or less follow the contours precisely. This phenomenon is most evident on the Virgin's left hand. The underdrawing may therefore have been executed in red chalk - a material occasionally employed by Cranach for this purpose. Red chalk is not visible in infrared.
            • Framing
            • modern

              [Cat. Frankfurt 2005, 173-180]
                • Date: 08.02.1995
                • Scientific analysis
                • Identification of wood species / Dendrochronology
                • Support
                • Identification of wood species: beech wood
                  [Klein Report, 08.02.1995]
                  • analysed by: Peter Klein
                  Condition Reports:
                  • Date: 2005
                  • Very bad. In the flesh paint and isolated areas of the draperies the image has been disfigured by overcleaning, this is particularly apparent on the neck as well as the nose and the Virgin's eyebrows and the left arm of the child. [Cat. Frankfurt 2005, 173-180]