Cranach - Christ blessing the Children
Christ blessing the Children
Workshop Lucas Cranach the Elder
Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha
17.06.2019 - 03:30
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CDA ID / Inventory NumberDE_SMG_SG6
Persistent Link
FR (1978) No.FR-none
Christ blessing the Children[cda 2011]
Christus mit den KindleinVerzeichnis 1826, fol. 74, No. 169 [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 53]
Christus mit den Kindern[Schneider 1868, Abt. V, No. 102][1] [1][Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 53]
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Workshop Lucas Cranach the Elder [cda 2010] 'Nach Lucas Cranach der Jüngere [...] The throng of figures and the diffuse representation of facial features suggests the work of an independent member of the workshop, like for example Augustus Cordus, [...]' [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 53] 'Cranach's Schule' [Aldenhoven 1890, No. 365] 'Cranach's Schule. Christus mit den Kindern' [Schneider 1868, Abt. V. No. 102]
Lucas Cranach the Younger [Exhib. Cat. Gotha/Kassel 2015, 202]
Albrecht Altdorfer 'von Albrecht Durrens Lehr-Meister, Albrecht Altdorff, gemahlt'[1] [1][Inventar 1733, fol. Inventar 1764, fol. 190, Nr. 65(?)] [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, No. 1.22]
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about 1540 - 1550[Exhib. Cat. Gotha 2015, No. 57] [Schade, Exib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 53]
Owner / Repository / Location:
RepositoryStiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha
Dimensions of support: 14.8 x 19.7 x 0.2 cm [cda 2010]
Painting on beech wood [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 26, 214] [Klein, Report 1994]
Signature / Date:
Artist's insignia at the top in the centre, to the right of Christ's head: winged serpent with dropped wings; in yellow paint
Inscriptions, Marks, Labels, Seals:
Original Inscriptions:
Inscriptions, Marks, Labels, Seals:
Reverse of panel: - top left: written in red 'ML' (linked) - top right: written in black: a horizontal 'L' [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 53] - centre: in red ink: 'Zentral-Museum/Gotha/6/(365)' - bottom left: printed yellow label: 'Schloßmuseum Gotha/Inv.-Nr.:/S.G. Nr.:/Alte Nr.:'; handwritten in black ink: '46', '6', '365 Ahv.'
Christ stands in the centre of this rectangular composition shifted slightly to the left of the central axis and surrounded by a crowd of mothers with their children. He holds one of the children in his arms and has placed his hand over another's stomach. The mothers press in on him from either side. The apostles are visible in the top right corner and their defensive stance betrays their scepticism. [Görres, cda 2014]
- recorded in Gotha Castle before 1721: 'von Altenburg kommen', [Inventar 1721, fol. 166, No. 69][1]

[1][Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 53]
Gotha 1994, No. 1.22
Gotha 2001, No. 1.24
Gotha, Kassel 2015, No. 57
Sources / Publications:
Reference on PageCatalogue NumberFigure/Plate
Spira 201559
Exhib. Cat. Gotha 20011.24
Exhib. Cat. Gotha 199453
Schade, Schuttwolf 199453, 761.22Fig. p. 53, Pl. p. 76
Parthey 1863-1864699 (Bd. 1)No. 6
Interpretation / History / Discussion:
Klibish was first to suggest that the paintings were created within the context of the contemporary debate regarding the baptism of children. In her opinion the paintings expressed Luther's rejection of the Anabaptists. In contrast to the Wittenberg reformer they decidedly disapproved of the baptism of infants, because the under age child cannot consciously commit himself.
This reading is repeated in the literature to the present day, but it is also frequently contradicted. Already in the catalogue of the Luther exhibition in Nuremberg (1983) Seebaß pointed out that by the end of the 1530s, when the first paintings emerged from the Cranach workshop, the heyday of the baptist movement had long since passed. In his opinion the subject should be interpreted as a baptism image, because in the pre-reformation church the biblical performance of blessing children was already routinely read within this context. In addition Seebaß views the motif as a reformation confessional image, as according to Luther only childlike faith can lead the sinner to salvation. The meaning of the motif runs parallel to that of depictions by Cranach of the infant St John in adoration of the infant Christ. According to Koepplin this also illustrated the childlike belief in God demanded by Luther.[1] At the same time the motif of Luther's rejection of justification through good deeds was addressed: the children are accepted by Christ without having done a good deed, simply because of their faith. The repeated representation of mothers on versions of this subject may visualize Luther's attempt to equate the child's receipt of motherly love with mankinds receipt of faith.
The reformist idea of faith as an essential requirement for the justification of mankind that emerges in this summarized interpretation might explain why the subject was frequently shown on epitaphs.
[1] Exhib. Cat. Nuremberg 1983, 360 f.
[Benjamin D. Spira, in Exhib. Cat. Gotha, Kassel 2015, 202]
Material / Technique:
  • Date: 01.04.2010
  • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
  • Infrared reflectography
  • Workshop Lucas Cranach the Elder - Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha - Christ blessing the Children - Infrared Images
  • Underdrawing

    - dry drawing material and fluid medium (dark chalk and fine brush ?)

    - fine, delicate lines

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

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


    - workshop

    [Smith, Sandner, Heydenreich, cda 2012]
    • photographed by: Gunnar Heydenreich
    • photographed by: Ingo Sandner
    • Date: 17.03.1994
    • Scientific analysis
    • Identification of wood species / Dendrochronology
    • Support
    • 'The panel is beech wood (14.8 x 19.7 cm). 111 annual rings were measured, that match the beech wood chronology between the years 1530 and 1420. The most recent annual ring dated is from the year 1530. Usually with beech wood the entire transverse section was used and only the bark removed, therefore the earliest felling date is 1530. Considering a two year seasoning period the painting could have been created no earlier than 1532.'

      [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 53, 214]
      • analysed by: Peter Klein
      • Date: 1966
      • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
      • X-radiography
      • 'Exceptionally good reproduction of details. Reveals an almost three dimensional modelling of the flesh paint. The inscription is clearly legible. The letter 'M' is visible beneath the word 'solcher'. It may be on the reverse of the panel. There are no pentimenti, the woodgrain is horizontal and the craquellée in the paint layers corresponds accordingly.'

        Martin Meier-Siem, 1966, Hamburg
        [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 53]
        • examined by: Martin Meier-Siems