Cranach - Hercules with Omphale
Hercules with Omphale
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha
17.06.2019 - 02:42
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Painting:
CDA ID / Inventory NumberDE_SMG_SG7
Persistent Linkhttp://lucascranach.org/DE_SMG_SG7
FR (1978) No.FR-none
Title:
Hercules with Omphale[cda 2011]
Allegorische Darstellung des Herkules mit der Omphale und mehreren lydischen Mädchen[Verzeichnis 1826, fol. 72, No. 160][1], [1][Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 24]
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Attribution:
Lucas Cranach the Elder [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 2015, No. 63] [Exhib. Cat. Hamburg 2003, No. 74] [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 24]
Dating:
about 1537[Exhib. Cat. Gotha 2015, No. 63] [Exhib. Cat. Hamburg 2003, No. 74] [Schade 1974, Fig. 175]
Owner / Repository / Location:
OwnerStiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha
RepositoryStiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha
LocationGotha
Dimensions:
Dimensions of support: 14.4 x 19.2 cm [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 24]
Support:
Painting on beech wood [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 24, 214] [Klein, Report 1994]
Signature / Date:
Artist's insignia in the top right corner: winged serpent with elevated wings, facing left (unclear); in white paint
Inscriptions, Marks, Labels, Seals:
- bottom right, four lines in Latin: 'HERCVLEIS MANIBVS DANT LYDAE PENSA PVELLAE/ IMPERIVM DOMINAE FERT DEVS ILLE SVAE/ SIC CAPIT INGENTES ANIMOS DAMNOS VOLVPTAS/ FORTIAQVE ENERVAT PECTORA MOLLIS AMOR'
Description:
Cranach's small format panel depicts an episode from the myths about Hercules: to atone for a murder the Greek hero entered the services of the Lydian Queen Omphale and finally became her lover. Out of love to her Hercules allowed himself to be humiliated by wearing women's clothes and doing women's work like spinning wool, while he gave his club and lion's skin to Omphale. [1] Accordingly Cranach depicts Hercules in the company of Omphale's servants, who place a bonnet on his head. The hero is shown spinning a thread, that is tensioned diagonally between his hands and is pulled from a distaff by one of the servants. Hercules appears to follow the thread with his gaze, which leads to the servant, who looks out at the viewer, including him in the events. It is not by chance that a Latin inscription commenting the event is located beneath the image. It is translated as follows: 'The Lydian girls give Hercules' hands work; the sovereignty of his mistress tolerates that divinity. Ruinous lust seizes powerful spirits, and even the most capable minds are enfeebled by tender love.' [2] [1] Bischoff 1998, 154 f. [2] Zitiert nach Exhib. Cat. Basel 1974, 574 [Julia Carrasco, in Exhib. Cat. Gotha, Kassel 2015, 216]
Provenance:
- recorded in Gotha Castle since 1764 [Inventar 1764, fol. 195, No. 93][1]
[1][Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 24]
Exhibitions:
Gotha 1994
Gotha 2001, No. 1.12
Hamburg 2003, No. 74
Gotha/Kassel 2015, No. 63
Sources / Publications:
Reference on PageCatalogue NumberFigure/Plate
Waterman 2015284, Fn. 17; 286
Dohe 201548
Exhib. Cat. Hamburg 200377, 18174Pl. 74
Exhib. Cat. Gotha 20011.12
Möller 199986-92
Exhib. Cat. Gotha 199424
Klein 1994 B214
Schade, Schuttwolf 199424, 25, 381.6Fig. p. 24, Pl. p. 38
Schade 1974Fig. 175
Parthey 1863-1864699 (Bd. 1)No. 14
Interpretation / History / Discussion:
Hercules and Omphale were mainly depicted as a pair, among others by Hans Baldung Grien and Niklaus Manuel Deutsch and as such the panel in Gotha represents a distinct pictorial invention by Cranach with neither prototypes nor followers and that was produced in his workshop between 1531 and 1537 in a least a dozen versions.[1] Cranach's versions, among which the small format panel in Gotha is a unique execption, vary showing between two and four female figures with Hercules, whereby the act of positioning the bonnet on Hercules' head, the tensioning of the thread and the distaff are recurring elements as is the slightly modified inscription, which is located here on a light background.[2] In the present image the number of figures, the composition and the gestures are similar to the panel in Braunschweig as well as the drawing in Berlin and are thought to be exemplary for the version in Copenhagen.[3]
Thanks to his virtues and his heroic deeds Hercules was regarded as the ideal ruler: in his interpretation of psalm 101, dedicated to Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous, Martin Luther employed the 'Weibermachtstopos' of Hercules and Omphale in accordance with classical prototypes as an exemplum to warn against the hazards of flattery and deceit that the ruler would have to ward off in the court.[4] The subject is repeatedly documented within a courtly context. It was recorded in 1513 among the 'Weibmacht' paintings decorating Johann the Steadfast's nuptial chamber in Torgau, while the panel in Copenhagen belonged to Albrecht of Brandenburg.[5] Against this backdrop the subject evolves - particularly within the context of the Saxon court which was well-disposed to reformation ideas - on two levels: on the one hand it alerts to the power of women, and on the other hand it urges political prudence.
[1] Generally: Smith 1995
[2] Exhib. Cat. Basel 1974, 575; Baumbach 2006, 391 f. (appendix). Generally on the iconography: Bischoff 1998, for Cranach's pictorial inventions: Koepplin 2003.
[3] Friedländer, Rosenberg 1979, Nos. 272-275
[4] Ebenda as well as Exhib. Cat. Hamburg 2003, 76, fig. 75 and 181, No. 76
[5] Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 24 f.; Bischoff 1998, 164 f.; Wiemers 2002, 228-230; Baumbach 2006, 384-387
[6] Exhib. Cat. Basel 1974, 574-576, Exhib. Cat. Hamburg 2003, 181; Baumbach 2006, 370-384
[Julia Carrasco, in Exhib. Cat. Gotha, Kassel 2015, 216]
Material / Technique:
  • Date: 08.04.2013
  • Scientific analysis
  • Identification of wood species / Dendrochronology
  • Support
  • Identification of wood species: beech wood
    [Klein Report, 08.04.2013]
    • examined by: Peter Klein
    • Date: 2010
    • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
    • Infrared reflectography
    • Lucas Cranach the Elder - Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha - Hercules with Omphale - Infrared Images
    • Underdrawing
    • DESCRIPTION

      Tools/Material:
      - fluid black pigmented medium, pointed brush

      Type/Ductus:
      - freehand underdrawing
      - thin lines

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

      Deviations:
      - only minor alterations in the painted version to clearly define form

      INTERPRETATION

      Attribution:
      - workshop

      [Smith, Sandner, Heydenreich, cda 2012]
      • photographed by: Gunnar Heydenreich
      • photographed by: Ingo Sandner
      • Date: 1999
      • Scientific analysis
      • Micro-sampling / cross-sections
      • Instrumental material analysis
      • 'Pigment and media analysis by Maria Schramm und Prof. Dr. Peter Schramm, Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Dresden' (see p. 3, Conservation Report 1999-2001, Angela Möller)
        • examined by: Maria Schramm
        • examined by: Hans-Peter Schramm
        • Date: 17.03.1994
        • Scientific analysis
        • Identification of wood species / Dendrochronology
        • Support
        • Identification of wood species: beech wood
          Youngest annual ring: 1522
          [Klein Report, 17.03.1994]
          • analysed by: Peter Klein
          • Date: 1966
          • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
          • X-radiography
          • Observations:
            Threadcount: 12 vertical, 11 horizontal. The lead white image is barely visible. Faint craquellée. Relatively thick ground, which has also filled the interstices of the canvas (canvas not sized adequately). On the left edge of the painting there is a fill, which contains chalk. Numerous losses in the paint layers along the edge. The canvas has been cut at an angle. The weak lead white image and the careless workmanship suggest that it is the work of a follower of Cranach.

            Martin Meier-Siem, Hamburg 1966
            [Exhib. Cat. Gotha 1994, 24]

            [see Conservation Report 1999/2001, Angela Möller, for a different interpretation]
            • examined by: Martin Meier-Siems
            History of Restoration:
            • Date: 2001
            • Lucas Cranach the Elder - Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha - Hercules with Omphale - ConservationLucas Cranach the Elder - Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha - Hercules with Omphale - ConservationLucas Cranach the Elder - Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha - Hercules with Omphale - ConservationLucas Cranach the Elder - Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha - Hercules with Omphale - ConservationLucas Cranach the Elder - Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha - Hercules with Omphale - ConservationLucas Cranach the Elder - Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha - Hercules with Omphale - Conservation
            • Condition (Summary): - during a previous treatment campaign a coarse canvas was attached to the reverse of the panel to as reinforcement. - blisters in the paint layer had been filled with an extremely hard black fill material - a coating of lead white was applied to the reverse of the panel after 1966
            • Treatment (Summary): 1999/2000 - the paint layers were secured with wax and the hollows beneath were filled with Paraloid in a 15% solution of ethyletheracetat - fill material was removed from the reverse of the panel - the woodworm channels were filled with hemp fibres and a mixture of sturgeon glue and sawdust - losses were filled and isolated, retouching was carried out in Tempera and Primal diluted with water September 2001 Before the treatment was completed the painting was damaged when it fell out of its frame - the paint layers were consolidated, the losses filled, the surface leveled and isolated, retouching was carried out with watercolours - a wax-dammar varnish was applied (1:8)
            • conservation treatment by: Angela Möller