Cranach - The Crucifixion
The Crucifixion
Follower of Lucas Cranach the Elder
Stadtgeschichtliches Museum, Leipzig
17.06.2019 - 02:43
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CDA ID / Inventory NumberDE_SML_kK25
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FR (1978) No.FR-none
The Crucifixion[Cat. Leipzig 2006, 122]
Follower of Lucas Cranach the Elder[Cat. Leipzig 2006, 122]
Workshop Lucas Cranach the Elder [cda 2013]
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about 1520[Cat. Leipzig 2006, 122]
Owner / Repository / Location:
OwnerStadtgeschichtliches Museum, Leipzig
RepositoryStadtgeschichtliches Museum, Leipzig
Dimensions of support: 143 x 124 cm [Cat. Leipzig 2006, 122]
Painting on wood [Cat. Leipzig 2006, 122]
Signature / Date:
The three crosses of Golgotha rise up beneath a dramatic dark cloudy sky. Christ is shown in the centre with his loincloth fluttering in the breeze. On his righthand side the Virgin and St John stand together with a further two women in mourning. Mary Magdalene embraces the shaft of Christ's cross from behind. To the left of Christ a group of soldiers and Pharisees is shown, two on horseback. [...] A thirteen headed donor family kneels in the foreground and is dipicted smaller in scale than the biblical scene. [Ulrike Dura, Cat. Leipzig 2006, 122]
- originally in the Thomaskirche according to Stepner 1675
- 1815 rediscovered in the Nikolaikirche
- 1848 transferred from the municipal library (Stadtbibliothek) to the municipal museum (Städtisches Museum)
- since 1910 property of the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum

[Susanne Schottke, Exhib. Cat. Leipzig, Heidelberg 1997, 66]
Leipzig, Heidelberg 1997
Sources / Publications:
Reference on PageCatalogue NumberFigure/Plate
Cat. Leipzig 2006122-123
Exhib. Cat. Leipzig 199766-69
Magirius et al. 1995456
Gurlitt 189532
Stepner 1675649
Interpretation / History / Discussion:
Two of the three coats-of-arms shown can be indentified: the coat-of-arms positioned in front of the men on the left belongs to the Preusser family, while that on the far right can be associated with the Thümmel family. Both were old established Leipzig families who owned extensive properties and were very well connected. In the 16th century numerous offsprings from both familes became council members, academics and other influential personalities. For example the Preusser family owned the property Markt 11 next to a guesthouse in Petersstraße, which was one of the largest plots in Leipzig.

The painting could be the one referred to in an entry written by Salomon Stepner (No. 649), describing a crucifixion originally located in the Thomaskirche. The presence of the Preusser coat-of-arms suggests that this painting may indeed be the epitaph for Hans Preusser (d. 1549). Consequently the epitaph would be dated shortly after 1549. There are no other entries by Stepner, which could be associated with the epitaph.

However, in addition to the above mentioned dependence on earlier depictions of the Crucifixion, further evidence counters this interpretation: in Leipzig by 1550 the ‚standard‘ for donor figures regarding scale and quality had already changed. Furthermore all the family members are shown hold rosary beads in their hands. It is unlikely that this catholic symbol related to the veneration of the Virgin would have enjoyed popularity in Leipzig ten years after the introduction of the reformation, but it is not impossible.

Above all the association of the donor family with that of Hans Preusser ignores the fact that he was married to Anna Jechler, and the second coat-of-arms is that of the Thümmel family.

Written sources pertaining to the family history offer more clarity (even if they don’t eliminate all doubt), as only one marriage between a Preusser and a Thümmel is recorded: in 1492 the council member Cunz/Conrad Preusser married his second wife Ursula Thümmel, daughter of Mayor Jacob Thümmel. Cunz Preusser died in 1500. This date would seem to be too early for the epitaph, as comparable depictions of the Crucifixion by Cranach, that served here as prototypes, were only created about 1515. However, the following interpretation is plausible on the basis of written sources and the fact that numerous other family members are depicted in old age, among them six women with black bands, identified as married by the black cloaks and bonnets they wear:

The widow of Cunz Preusser and his adult children commissioned the epitaph about 1520. Then the following members of the family would be represented:
The two women on the right are the two wives of Cunz Preusser, the first wife, who died young and whose name is not recorded, and Ursula Thümmel, who considerably outlived her husband. Beside them are the two married daughters from the first marriage. The other two married women could be the daughters-in-law, the wives of the two sons Hans and Wolfgang: Anna, whose maiden name was Jechler, and Magdalena whose maiden name was Körner. The sons kneel on the left behind the father.

From his second marriage two daughters are recorded, at least one is recorded in the sources as unmarried in 1512, and she may have been depicted kneeling in a red dress. The other died in 1504, and could be one of the girls in a white shroud.
Cunz Preusser was buried in the Thomaskirche, and it is possible that the epitaph was originally there.

[Ulrike Dura, Cat. Leipzig 2006, 122-123]
Material / Technique:
  • Date: 01.02.2013
  • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
  • Infrared reflectography
  • Follower of Lucas Cranach the Elder - Stadtgeschichtliches Museum, Leipzig - The Crucifixion - Infrared Images
  • Underdrawing

    - fluid, black medium and brush; the initial rough design may have been executed with very diluted medium

    - detailed and freehand underdrawing
    - thin to broader lines

    - binding for the final painted version; lines delineate contours and describe the essential details and the facial features; representation of volume (hatching-strokes)

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


    - workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder

    [Smith, Sandner, Heydenreich, cda 2013]
    • photographed by: Gunnar Heydenreich
    • photographed by: Ingo Sandner