Cranach - An ill-matched couple
An ill-matched couple
Lucas Cranach the Elder (and workshop)
Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf
17.06.2019 - 02:41
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CDA ID / Inventory NumberDE_SMKP_M2248
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FR (1978) No.FR287
An ill-matched couple[cda 2011]
An ill-matched couple: Young girl and old man[Exhib. Cat. Frankfurt, London 2007/08, 308]
An ill-matched couple (old man and prostitute)[Koepplin, Exhib. Cat. Basel 1974, 567]
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Lucas Cranach the Elder (and workshop)[Heydenreich, CDA 2011]
about 1530[Heydenreich, CDA 2011]
1525[Andree, Cat. Düsseldorf 1985]
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Owner / Repository / Location:
OwnerKunstakademie Düsseldorf
RepositoryMuseum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf
Dimensions of support: 38.8 x 25.7 x 0.5 cm [Heydenreich 1994]
Painting on beech wood [Heydenreich, cda 2011]
Signature / Date:
Artist's insignia top right in the background: winged serpent with elevated wings, facing left; in yellow paint
Inscriptions, Marks, Labels, Seals:
Reverse of the panel: - top left: seal with coat-of-arms (quartered with two helmuts, top right two lilies, top left a figure, bottom right horizontal structure, bottom left ?) - centre, left: Label: 'Preußen 341', in white paint '2248', in black paint old inventory number (made illegible) [Heydenreich, CDA 2011]
The genre painting 'An ill-matched Pair' depicts a young girl in the arms of an ugly, old man. The two figures differ not only in age and beauty, but also in their reaction to each other. While the man pulls the girl towards him with a lewd grin, she tickles his beard with an expressionless face. It is clear from the jewellery in the old man's right hand that she is not acting out of affection, but that she will be paid for her services. The subject of the 'ill-matched pair', which warns the viewer against saleable love, was very popular in the 16th century. [ (5.12.2010)]
- 1860 transferred from the collection of Count August of Spee to the Kunstakademie Collection, Düsseldorf
- since 1932 on permanent loan to the Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf / Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf

[Heydenreich, CDA 2011]
- Düsseldorf 1946, No. 3
- Basel 1974
- Frankfurt, London 2007, 2008
- Düsseldorf 2017, No. 148
Sources / Publications:
Reference on PageCatalogue NumberFigure/Plate
Exhib. Cat. Düsseldorf 2017247No. 148
Heydenreich 2007 A288, 339, 349
Exhib. Cat. Frankfurt 2007308-30991p. 309
Exhib. Cat. Prague 200584 (English version 35)under no. 15
Bierende 1992
Zacher 198529No. 39
Friedländer, Rosenberg 1979127No. 287Fig. 287
Exhib. Cat. Basel 1974566-568No. 463Fig. 293
Cat. Düsseldorf 19621733Fig. 1
Peters 1955No. 31Plate 1
Exhib. Cat. Düsseldorf 19463
Friedländer, Rosenberg 1932235A
Klapheck 192831, 38
Cat. Düsseldorf 1901No. 35
Cat. Düsseldorf 188371
Cat. Düsseldorf 1880No. 151
Cat. Düsseldorf 1862No. 141
Interpretation / History / Discussion:
'The subject of the 'Ill-matched pair' became an evergreen in the Cranach workshop; over forty versions are known. It is from an account from 1540 that we discover the contemporary title of these paintings: Cranach delivered two panels showing 'Bulschaften' (whoredom) to Torgau palace. The subject already existed in the 15th century and was above all popular in print; but the master from Wittenberg had evolved and improved it in a unique manner. Previously the description of this subject was limited to very obvious gestures: the old man fondles the young woman’s breasts or becomes resolute in other ways, while she helps herself to the contents of his purse. This standard formula was also used by Cranach; in addition he explored the options of the psychological depth of the subject and played through all its facets.
The very young girl wearing a green velvet dress depicted on the panel in Düsseldorf fawns over the nearly toothless and almost bald old man fondling his beard, although her gestures and facial expression betray that no real enthusiasm occasioned this tenderness. Just as the thinning grey hair of the old man contrasts with her loose hip-length dark blond curls, so contrary is the reaction of the man to the cool emotions of the woman. With a lewd grin the old man stares at his prey, who he embraces around the waist with his left paw. However he is experienced enough to know that lacking appeal he must purchase the young girl’s love; therefore in the foreground he already holds a double fine linked gold chain, which is conspicuously shown to the viewer.’

[Brinkmann. Exhib. Cat. Frankfurt 2007, 308]
'The girl in a green velvet dress; the old man who offers a chain and wears a fur-trimmed black cloak'

'The motif of the 'old man with the young whore' or the 'old woman with the young lover' was derived by Cranach from the court painter Jacopo de' Barbari who preceded him (painting from 1503 in the Museum of Philadelphia, John G. Johnson Coll.; [Frimmel 1905, 56f.]: Before Cranach Barbari was in the service of the Saxon elector from 1503-1505, and how easy it would have been for Cranach 'who cast his eye south, even though his fortune held him in his motherland to be stimulated by the Italian master for his compositions of the old man in love. Did he not copy a figure of Christ after Jacopo de Barbari – No. 304'; [Burke 1936, 48, Fn. 31] or/and the type influenced by Leonardo (No. 464) and adopted albeit in a more complex and therefore not totally obvious type by Massys. [Friedländer 1929, 63]: 'as far as we can tell Massys was the first to develop this type in the Netherlands, probably inspired by a Leonardo caricature. Cranach may have been influenced by Massys.'; [on Massys: La Chronique des Arts, Nr. 1237, Febr. 1972, Fig. p. 80; see G. Marlier, Erasme et la peinture flamande de son temps, Brüssel 1954, 229, Fig. 39]. A depiction of an old man as lover being scoffed at by a jester in Wittenberg palace may be by Barbari, and is already recorded in a description from 1507 (213f.). In addition we must consider the pictorial tradition within German art (No. 465f., as well as Dürer's engraving B.93 and for example a drawing by Niklaus Manuel). The German humanist Jakob Locher Philomusus (see p. 145) wrote a 'drama de sene amatore' in the style of Plautus: his imitation of ancient Roman comedy corresponding with the (very subtle) italianate element in Cranach's work.

[Koepplin, Exhib. Cat. Basel 1974-1976, 567-568]
Material / Technique:
  • Date: 01.09.2011
  • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
  • Infrared reflectography
  • Lucas Cranach the Elder (and workshop) - Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf - An ill-matched couple - Infrared Images
  • Underdrawing
  • - an underdrawing is not readily visible
    [Smith, Sandner, Heydenreich, cda 2012]
    • photographed by: Ingo Sandner
    • photographed by: Gunnar Heydenreich
    • Date: 1994
    • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
    • X-radiography
    • Lucas Cranach the Elder (and workshop) - Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf - An ill-matched couple - X-RadiographsLucas Cranach the Elder (and workshop) - Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf - An ill-matched couple - X-Radiographs
        • Date: 1994
        • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
        • Infrared reflectography
        • X-radiography
        • Stereomicroscopy
        • Lucas Cranach the Elder (and workshop) - Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf - An ill-matched couple - X-RadiographsLucas Cranach the Elder (and workshop) - Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf - An ill-matched couple - X-RadiographsLucas Cranach the Elder (and workshop) - Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf - An ill-matched couple - Detail ImagesLucas Cranach the Elder (and workshop) - Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf - An ill-matched couple - Detail ImagesLucas Cranach the Elder (and workshop) - Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf - An ill-matched couple - Detail ImagesLucas Cranach the Elder (and workshop) - Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf - An ill-matched couple - Detail Images
        • Underdrawing
        • - no underdrawing is visible in the infrared reflectograph
          - under the stereomicroscope a bright red colour is visible beneath the paint of the woman’s eye, and is possibly an indication that red chalk was employed as a drawing medium
        • Paint Layers and Gilding
        • Flesh paint:
          The head of the old man was positioned with very little paint, containing lead (see x-radiograph), then modelled predominantly in brown to brownish black glazes and completed with a few pink highlights.
          The girl’s head on the other hand has more of a relief-like appearance in the x-radiograph, indicating that it was created employing more lead white in numerous layers. The paint application is confident exhibiting both strokes and stippling. The lips were executed with vermillion and red lake, the eyes are described in black and white paint. Under the stereomicroscope single azurite pigments are visible in the flesh paint.
          The shadow tones in the hair were applied flatly over the background. The hair appears to have been described with varying assurance. It is possible that the final very fine hairs were confidently applied by Cranach the Elder to a workshop production.

          Green robe:
          An initial black layer of paint (no incised lines are visible along the contours) was subsequently followed by an intense green layer. The folds were modelled in a lighter admixture, employing dark glazes to create the shadows (mixed with black?), suggesting that not only the black underpaint was exploited for the shadows. The slits of the sleeves are highlighted with white. There is a semi-transparent glaze on top of the opaque green paint.

          Black robe:
          The black robe was extensively modelled wet-in-wet. The linear pattern was applied to the wet paint (visible in the x-radiograph).

          The decorative elements were described in yellow, black and brown paint over a reddish brown underpaint (optical appearance: red iron oxide). Subsequently the precious stones were painted with green and red glazes and blue pigmented paint (optical appearance: azurite)(the only blue detail in the painting).

          Surface coatings:
          - recent natural resin varnish, very thick application and relatively glossy
        • Framing
        • - new frame: profiled rebate frame
        • Support
        • - one vertical cross-cut beech wood plank, no damage, no wooden inserts
          - the top and bottom edges are out of square with the sides
          - Standard format „B“ according to: [Heydenreich 2007 A, 43]
          - eight small notches on the reverse, which possibly served to fix the panel in a frame at some stage (original ?)
          - the panel has been thinned from the reverse, originally it was partially covered with an application of tow
        • Ground and Imprimatura
        • - white ground
          - the barbe has been preserved on all four sides. It is between 3 and 9 mm from the edge indicating, that the ground was applied to the panel while it was in a frame; there are no incised lines visible
          - the barbe and the bare wood have been covered with black paint
          • written by: Gunnar Heydenreich
          Condition Reports:
          • Date: 28.12.1994
          • Lucas Cranach the Elder (and workshop) - Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf - An ill-matched couple - Reverse
          • - 1994 (Restaurierungszentrum Düsseldorf, GM94.3525) Condition report: - the reverse of the panel has been smoothed with a serrated plane, oak wood blocks have been glued on to the reverse, which served as a guidance for two cross-battens (presumably 19th century) - the paint layers are in very good condition - very fine vertical cracquelure - various small scratches (in the flesh paint of the girl and the green robe) - fine layer of soot on the reverse of the panel as the result of fire damage - glazing not aesthetically pleasing, no backboard [Heydenreich, 28.12.1994]
          • written by: Gunnar Heydenreich
          History of Restoration:
          • Date: 28.12.1994
          • 1994 (Restaurierungszentrum Düsseldorf, GM94.3525) - surface cleaning of the reverse with Wishab cleaning sponge - the painted surface was cleaned with distilled water and cotton-wool - glazed with Mirogard Protect Magic - wooden bumper battens and a backboard were mounted on the reverse of the frame [Heydenreich, 28.12.1994]
          • conservation treatment by: Gunnar Heydenreich