Cranach - Philipp Melanchthon
Philipp Melanchthon
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha
25.05.2020 - 14:37
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CDA ID / Inventory NumberDE_SMG_SG10
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FR (1978) No.FR-none
Philipp Melanchthon[cda 2011]
Melanchthon's Bildniss'Melanchthon's Bildniss von 1532', [Schneider 1868, Abt. V. No. 74][1] [1][Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 25; Exhib. Cat. Gotha 2001, No. 1.7]
Philippus Melanchton in Brustbild'Philippus Melanchton in Brustbild auf Holz gemahlt von Lucas Cranachen', [Inventar 1721, fol. 490, No. 54][1] [1][Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 25; Exhib. Cat. Gotha 2001, No. 1.7]
Philippi Melachtonis Contrafait'Philippi Melachtonis Contrafait |Von Lucas Cranach gemahlt| Dergl. etwas kleiner', [Inventar 1667-92, fol 16][1] [1][Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 25; Exhib. Cat. Gotha 2001, No. 1.7]
Philippus Melanchton[Inventar 1644, fol. 30][1] [1][Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 25; Exhib. Cat. Gotha 2001, No. 1.7]
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Lucas Cranach the Elder [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 2015, No. 34] [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 25]
Hans Cranach '?' [Exhib. Cat. Gotha, Kassel 2015, 154, No. 34] [Heydenreich, cda 2014]
Workshop Lucas Cranach the Elder [Exhib. Cat. Chemnitz 2005, 477]
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Owner / Repository / Location:
OwnerStiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha
RepositoryStiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha
Dimensions of support: 19 x 15.2 x 0.25 cm [cda 2010]
Painting on beech wood [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 25]
Signature / Date:
Artist's insignia above the proper left shoulder: winged serpent with elevated wings, facing left and dated '1532'; in black paint. 'The shape of the wings and the style of writing is unusual' [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 25]
Inscriptions, Marks, Labels, Seals:
Reverse of the panel: - in the centre: handwritten in red ink: 'Zentral-Museum/Gotha Nr. 10/(342)' - bottom left: printed yellow label: 'Schloßmuseum Gotha/Inv.-Nr.:/S.G. Nr.:/Alte Nr.:'; handwritten entry in black ink: '50', '10', '342 Ahv.'
The painting in Gotha corresponds with a portrait type for Philipp Melanchthon, which was reproduced numerous times from 1532. Further examples of the same format are preserved in Berlin, Dresden, Regensburg and Munich. It shows the scholar and reformer in three-quarter profile against a monochrome blue background facing left. He is wearing a black gown and his hands are folded in his lap. [Carrasco, Exhib. Cat. Gotha, Kassel 2015, 154]
- recorded in the 'Kaufhaus Gotha' in 1644 (Residence of the Duke Ernst), [Inventar 1644, fol. 30][1]
- recorded in Gotha Castle before 1674 [Inventar 1680, fol. 2][1]
- [Inventar 1721, fol. 490, No. 54][1]

[1][Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 25]
Gotha 1994
Weimar 1972, No. 56
Gotha 2001, No. 1.7
Gotha, Kassel 2015, No. 34
Sources / Publications:
Reference on PageCatalogue NumberFigure/Plate
Knüvener 2016123
Heydenreich 2015122, 123Fig. 5c
Exhib. Cat. Munich 201160f.under Nos. 5-7
Exhib. Cat. Chemnitz 2005477f., 479 Fn. 11under No. 42Fig. 209
Exhib. Cat. Gotha 20011.7
Klein 1994 B214
Schade, Schuttwolf 199425, 26, 39, 701.7Fig. p. 25, Pl. p. 39
Exhib. Cat. Gotha 199425
Exhib. Cat. Weimar 1972 BNo. 56
Friedländer, Rosenberg 193275Mentioned under No. 252
Parthey 1863-1864697 (Bd. 1)No. 332
Böhler, Steinmeyer11
Interpretation / History / Discussion:
[...] Later copies and variants of this pictorial type exist, which vary in format, composition and some details. [1] Whereas pendant pieces depicting Martin Luther have survived for the versions in Berlin, Regensburg and Dresden these are missing for both the painting in Munich and Gotha. However a portrait of the Wittenberg reformer probably originally served as the pendant to each of these paintings. Serial production of the small format portraits of Luther and Melanchthon began in 1532 and remained with regards to the portrait of Luther unaltered. Conversely from 1543 the representation of Melanchthon was modified with a pointed beard and a beret, as illustrated by the small panel in Kassel (see Cat No. 36). [2]
Beyond the possible function as a friendship portrait [3] the serial character of this portrait type allows an association with the current political and confessional developments: the year 1532 marked the accession to power of Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous of Saxony, succeeding his father Johann the Steadfast of Saxony as elector and supporter of the reformation. Prior to this in 1530 the frontiers between the confessional factions had been further aggravated by a Lutheran confessional statement, the ‚Confessio Augustana‘, written under Melanchthon’s guidance and presented to the emperor at the Reichstag in Augsburg. This situation culminated in the formation of the protestant alliance the Schmalkaldic League. [4] The portraits could therefore have served a politically motivated propaganda of the new faith and its representatives, whose ‘image’ was to be embedded in the conscious mind through the serial character of the paintings.[5] On the other hand they can be interpreted as the indirect expression of support from the new elector for the reformist cause, and may have been gifts to like-minded rulers. [6]
By virtue of recent insights acquired regarding specific features of the painting in Gotha the question of a new attribution must be posed: [7] among others the specific rendition of the insignia and the addition of dots to the date links the painting with other portraits of Luther and Melanchthon as well as other thematic works from the Cranach workshop and as such relates it to works firmly attributed to Cranach’s eldest son Hans who died young. [8] Serial portraits like that of Melanchthon may have been used as an exercise for Cranach’s standardized production, while a deviation from the standard signature employed by the Cranach-workshop may have functioned as the mark of an individual assistant. [9]
[1] For an overview see: Friedländer, Rosenberg 1979, 131, Nos. 314 - 315
[2] Exhib. Cat. Kronach 1994, 354, No. 178 and Cat. Kassel 1997, 82-86, Nos. 52, 53
[3] Exhib. Cat. Kronach 1994, 354, No. 178
[4] Exhib. Cat. Chemnitz 2005, 477-479, Fn. 11; Exhib. Cat. Munich 2011, 60f., Nos. 5-7
[5] Hinz 1994, 175, Nos. 34, 35
[6] For a discussion regarding the purpose of such gifts see also the essay by Sebastian Dohe in this publication.
[7] Heydenreich 2015. I would like to thank the author for providing me with the unpublished article.
[8] The above mentioned portraits in Dresden were previously associated with Hans in: Exhib. Cat. Chemnitz 2005, 478.
[9] Heydenreich 2015, 135.
[Julia Carrasco, in Exhib. Cat. Gotha, Kassel 2015, 154]
[...] There are other paintings from the Cranach workshop that bear an insignia exhibiting wings with a similar fan-like shape and/or where the date is accompanied by dots. These should be included in future research: Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon, 1532 Gotha, Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein; Double Portrait of Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon, 1532, Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie [1]; Double Portrait of Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon, 1532, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden [2]; Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon, 1533, Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum Hannover. [3] [...]
[1] See cda, ID: DE_UEK-smbGG_Dep26; DE_UEK-smbGG_Dep27. The suggestion that the Luther portraits from 1532 should be examined with regards an authorship by Hans Cranach was previously made by Werner Schade in 1972; Schade 1973 (wie Anm. 5) 117.
[2] See cda, ID: DE_SKD_GG1918; DE_SKD_GG1919. In 1860 Wilhelm Schäfer had already suggested that Hans Cranach may have executed both portraits; Wilhelm Schäfer, Die Königliche Gemälde Gallerie im Neuen Museum zu Dresden. Beschreibung und Erläuterung sämtlicher Gemälde nach der Ordnung der Räume begleitet von kunstgeschichtlichen und kritischen Erinnerungen, Dresden 1860, 988f. Since then the paintings were attributed generally tot he workshop; Karin Kolb, Bestandskatalog der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden - Cranach-Werke in der Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister und der Rüstkammer; in: Cranach, eds. Harald Marx and Ingrid Mössinger, Exhib. Cat. Chemnitz 2005, 474 - 479.
[3] See cda. ID: DE_NLMH_L115. Further painting excluded here because they have not yet been examined to verify the insignia/date, but that should be considered in the future are: Portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam (1532, 19 x 14.6 cm, Rotterdam, Collectie Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen) exhibited until 2011 the date ‘1532’ at the right edge; Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon (1532, 18.7 x 12.9 cm, Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria); Portrait of Martin Luther (1532, 19 x 15.3 cm, Paris, De Jonkheere, 2007); Portrait of Emperor Charles V. (1533, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemiza, cda, ID: ES_MTB_112-1933-7); Law and Gospel (1536, 64.8 x 120.6 cm, Christie's New York, Sale 2819, Lot 165, 2014).
[Heydenreich 2015, 123, 126]
Material / Technique:
  • Date: 01.04.2010
  • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
  • Infrared reflectography
  • Lucas Cranach the Elder - Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha - Philipp Melanchthon - Infrared Images
  • Underdrawing

    - dry drawing material (dark chalk ?)

    - thin traced lines

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

    - minor alterations made during the painting process to clearly define forms


    - not possible

    - probably with reference to a preparatory drawing or transferred from a pre-existing design (traced?)

    [Smith, Sandner, Heydenreich, cda 2012]
    • photographed by: Gunnar Heydenreich
    • photographed by: Ingo Sandner