Cranach - The death of Holofernes
The death of Holofernes
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha
06.12.2021 - 11:37
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Painting:
CDA ID / Inventory NumberDE_SMG_SG675
Persistent Linkhttps://lucascranach.org/DE_SMG_SG675
FR (1978) No.FR215
Title:
The death of Holofernes[CDA 2010]
Wie Judith dem Holoferns den Kopff abschläget[Inventar Weimar 1938, fol. 1][1][1][Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 23]
Im Zelt des Holofernes'Cranach d. Ä. 'Im Zelt des Holofernes'', [Aldenhoven 1890, No. 335][1] [1][Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 23]
Die Historia von der Judith und dem Holofernes'Die Historia von der Judith und dem Holofernes in 2 Tafeln bestehend, auf Holz gemahlt von Lucas Cranachen ao 1531 [...] 179. (b) das andere wie Sie das Haupt in einen Sack stecket', [Inventar 1721, fol. 513f , No. 179][1] [1][Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 23]
Die Historie von der Judith, und dem Holoferne'Die Historie von der Judith, und dem Holoferne in 2 Tafeln bestehend, auf Holtz gemahlt, von Lucas Cranach ao 1531. alß das [...] b)wie sie das demselben abgehauene Haupt in einen Sack stecket', [Inventar 1717, fol. 152][1] [1][Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 23]
Historia von der Judith und Holoferne'Lux(Lucas) Mahler 6., 7 Historia von der Judith und Holoferne. 2 Stück', [Inventar 1659, fol. 1][Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 23]
Gegenstücke. Die Historia der Judith und des Holofernes'Gegenstücke. Die Historia der Judith und des Holofernes. Idem (Lux[Lucas] Mahler)', [Inventar 1656, fol. 1, Nos. 6, 7][1] [1][Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 23]
Wie Sie [Judith] Ihm [Holofernes] den Kopf ab gehauen[Inventar 1644][1] [1][Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 23]
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Attribution:
Lucas Cranach the Elder [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 2015, No. 96]
[Exhib. Cat. Hamburg 2003, 172, No. 37]
[Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 22]
[Schade 1974, 5]
[Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 23]
[Aldenhoven 1890, No. 335][1]
"das Meiste an diesem Bilde von Cranachs eigener Hand"
[Schuchardt 1851, II, 62, No. 305][1]
"Cranach. Lucas Sunders."
[Verzeichnis 1826, fol. 65, No. 108][1]
"von Lucas Cranachen 1531, Nr. 179 b.) wie Sie das Haupt in einen Sack stecket", [Inventar 1721, fol. 513f., No. 179][1]
[1][Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 23]
Dating:
1531[dated]
Owner / Repository / Location:
OwnerStiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha
RepositoryStiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha
LocationGotha
Dimensions:
Dimensions of support: 98 x 73.6 cm [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 23]
Dimensions including frame: 113 x 88.5 cm [Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, revised 1994]
Support:
Painting on lime wood
[Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 23]
Signature / Date:
Artist's insignia bottom right on the drum: winged serpent with elevated wings, facing right and dated '1531'; in yellow paint
Description:
On two prestigious panels Cranach illustrates the story of the pious widow Judith, which is told in one of the Old Testament's apocryphal books (the book of Judith). After Holofernes - the assyrian field commander who served the tyrannical King Nebuchadnezzar - had pillaged and murdered throughout the Middle East he lay siege to the Judahite town of Bethulia. Judith decided to save her home town from the hopeless situation and went into the field commander's camp posing as a defector. Her beauty soon arroused the attention of Holofernes who then invited Judith to a banquet.
On the second painting Cranach depicts Judith - still holding the sword in her right hand - with her maid placing Holofernes' severed head in a sack. Oblivious to the tragic act performed in the tent the soldiers continue their bustling activity in the camp. Behind the row of covered wagons a council of war has gathered in a large circle, isolated skirmisches as well as a banquet taking place on numerous tables under an arbour are visible. A fortified town and a steep mountain with an imposing fortress are visible in the background at the left.
[Timo Trümper, in Exhib. Cat. Gotha, Kassel 2015, 272]
Provenance:
- 1638 recorded in the 'Grünen Schloss' in Weimar,
[Inventory Weimar 1638, fol. 1][1]
- 1644 recorded in the 'Gotha Kaufhaus'
[Inventar 1644. fol. 30][1]
- 1656 recorded in the Kunstkammer in Gotha Castle
[Inventar 1656, fol. 1, No. 6][1]

[1][Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 22]
Exhibitions:
Gotha 1959
Weimar 1972, No. 47, fig. 65
Basel 1974, II, mentioned in the entry for No. 478
Berlin 1983, No. E 17.2 fig. 307
Gotha 1994
Gotha 2001, No. 1.6
Hamburg 2003, No. 37
Gotha/Kassel 2015, No. 96
Sources / Publications:
Reference on PageCatalogue NumberFigure/Plate
Wegmann 201725, 26
Exhib. Cat. Gotha, Kassel 2015272, 273, 27596Pl. p. 275
Sandner, Heydenreich, Smith-Contini 2015135, Fn. 50
Exhib. Cat. Brussels 20109977
Exhib. Cat. Frankfurt 2007202-20546p. 205
Exhib. Cat. Hamburg 200351, 17337Pl. 37
Schade, Schuttwolf 199423, 24, 371.5Fig. p. 23, Pl. p. 37
Exhib. Cat. Gotha 199423
Schuttwolf 199481.5
Exhib. Cat. Berlin 1983E17.2Fig. p. 307
Friedländer, Rosenberg 1979112No. 215Fig. 215
Schade 197456-59, 462Figs. 151, 152
Exhib. Cat. Basel 1974417-418, 578under No. 478
Exhib. Cat. Weimar 1972 BNo. 47Plate 65
Schenk zu Schweinsberg 196641
Thöne 196567
Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1959No. 12Fig. 12
Friedländer, Rosenberg 193262177
Parthey 1863-1864680 (Bd. 1)No. 35
Schuchardt 1851 C62305
Material / Technique:
  • Date: 04. 2010
  • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
  • Infrared reflectography
  • Lucas Cranach the Elder - Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha - The death of Holofernes - Infrared Images
  • 8.03 Underdrawing
  • DESCRIPTION

    Tools/Materials:
    - fluid black pigmented medium and brush in two stages, beginning with diluted medium

    Type/Ductus:
    - detailed and freehand underdrawing
    - thin lines in combination with broader lines; occasional washes

    Function:
    - binding for the final painted version; lines delineate contours and define forms, the thinner very dark lines describe the essential facial features; occasional representation of volume with grey washes

    Deviations:
    - minor alterations made during the painting process to clearly define form

    INTERPRETATION

    Attribution:
    - Lucas Cranach the Elder ?

    [Smith, Sandner, Heydenreich, cda 2012]
    • photographed by: Gunnar Heydenreich
    • photographed by: Ingo Sandner
    History of Restoration:
    • Date: 1998 - 02. 2000
    • Lucas Cranach the Elder - Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha - The death of Holofernes - ConservationLucas Cranach the Elder - Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha - The death of Holofernes - ConservationLucas Cranach the Elder - Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha - The death of Holofernes - Conservation
    • Summary of the treatment report (see pdf for the complete version in German):

      - open split
      - some small paint loss
      - discoloured retouches
      - yellowed varnish
    • Summary of the treatment report (see pdf for the complete version in German):

      - varnish removal (with solvents)
      - consolidation of the paint layers
      - removal of overpaint both mechanically and with solvents
      - reinforcement of the open split
      - retouching
      - isolating and final varnish
    • conservation treatment by: Angela Möller
    • photographed by: D. Demme