Cranach - Christ in Limbo
Christ in Limbo
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Grunewald hunting lodge
24.04.2019 - 18:07
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CDA ID / Inventory NumberDE_SPSG_GKI2271
Persistent Link
FR (1978) No.FR374
Christ in Limbo[Friedländer, Rosenberg 1979, 145, No. 374]
Lucas Cranach the Elder [Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten, Berlin - Brandenburg, revised 2011]
Owner / Repository / Location:
OwnerStiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg
RepositoryGrunewald hunting lodge
Dimensions of support: 151.2 x 116.2 cm [Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten, Berlin - Brandenburg, revised 2011]
Painting on lime wood (Tilia sp.) [Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten, Berlin - Brandenburg, revised 2011]
Signature / Date:
Artist's insignia at the lower edge: winged serpent (with dropped wings) and date '1538'
The decent of Christ into a subterranean limbo to liberate the innocent children and the 'just' in accordance with the laws of the old covenant is not mentioned in the bible, but rather in medieval apocryphal writing. A dark smoke cloud in the shape of animal-like devilish figures dissipates above those waiting for salvation. Christ stands on the top ledge of the painting wearing a red cloak and carrying the banner of the cross. Grabbing onto Eve's wrist he pulls her up. The bearded man beside her, who can be identified as Adam, tugs on his red cloak. Around Christ the redeemed souls join their hands in prayer. [see Elke a. Werner, Exhib. Cat. Berlin 2009, 217-219, No. IV.21]
- from the old Domkirche (Cathedral) Berlin
[Friedländer, Rosenberg 1979, 145, No. 374]

- probably taken from the Domkirche (Cathedral) in the 17th century and placed in the Erasmuskapelle (Erasmus Chapel) in the Berliner Schloss (Berlin Palace); eight Passion paintings are listed in the Berliner Schloss inventory from 1700
[Exhib. Cat. Berlin 2009, 213, Nos. IV.14-22]
Berlin 2009/10, No. IV.21
Sources / Publications:
Reference on PageCatalogue NumberFigure/Plate
Exhib. Cat. Berlin 2009 A217-219No. IV.21Fig. IV.21
Most, Wolf et al. 200995Fig. 10
Tacke 2007 C81, 82, 84
Erichsen 1994 A157, 158
Friedländer, Rosenberg 1979145No. 374Fig. 374
Friedländer, Rosenberg 1932299
Schuchardt 1851 C15-1616
Interpretation / History / Discussion:
‚The painting is one of nine Passion panels, that were originally parts of an unknown number of winged altarpieces. Commissioned by Joachim II Lucas Cranach the Elder and his workshop created them for the collegial church in Berlin (Berliner Stiftskirche) between 1537 and 1538. This is one of the central panels, which was probably flanked by full-length depictions of saints on the wings and complemented by scenes from the old testament on the predella. […] The Berlin Passion cycle was based on the 16 Passion altarpieces, which were commissioned by Cardinal Albrecht from Lucas Cranach the Elder and his workshop for the collegial church in Halle (Hallenser Stiftskirche) (about 1520-1525) and it was the second large painted Passion series created in the Cranach workshop. Not only are numerous central panels now missing from the Berlin Passion altarpieces, like for example ‚The Arrest of Christ‘ or ‚The Crucifixion‘, but in addition the whereabouts of all the wing panels and a large number of the predella panels is unknown. They were probably lost in 1613 when Elector Johann Sigismund converted to Calvinism. […]‘
[Elke A. Werner, Exhib. Cat. Berlin 2009, 213, No. IV.14-22]
‘In contrast to the extensive pictorial tradition of the 15th and early 16th centuries Cranach does not depict the broken door of Hell and Christ triumphing over the devil. […] the fact that the architecture deviates from that in traditional representations of the scene may be explained by the original position the panel occupied in the church. The missing door and the sober composition lacking in detail could also be associated with Luther’s sermon from 1533 in Torgau. In his sermon Luther specifically addressed the subject of purgatory in the visual arts and accepted depictions that served as ‘images of instruction’ to assist in the understanding of the articles of faith. However, within this context he also warned against details, for example the door and the locks of Hell.’
[Elke A. Werner, Exhib. Cat. Berlin 2009, 217-219, No. IV.21]