Cranach - The Virgin with Child with a Bunch of Grapes
The Virgin with Child with a Bunch of Grapes
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
23.11.2017 - 00:57
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Painting:
CDA ID / Inventory NumberES_MTB_114-1936-1
Persistent Linkhttp://lucascranach.org/ES_MTB_114-1936-1
FR (1978) No.FR030
Title:
The Virgin with Child with a Bunch of Grapes[Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]
Attribution:
Lucas Cranach the Elder [Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]
Dating:
about 1509 - 1510[Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]
Owner / Repository / Location:
OwnerMuseo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
RepositoryMuseo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
LocationMadrid
Dimensions:
Dimensions of support: 71.5 x 44.2 cm Dimensions including frame: 88 x 63 cm [Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]
Support:
Painting on Beech wood (laminated onto a pine wood board) [Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]
Signature / Date:
Artist's insignia on the illuminated surface of the wall behind the Virgin: winged serpent with elevated wings facing left [Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]
Inscriptions, Marks, Labels, Seals:
None
Description:
In this work the artist depicts the Virgin in the foreground, using a delicate sfumato derived from Italian art. Cranach's most characteristic style, however, cannot be described as Italian, and he developed the classic female prototype within German Renaissance art. In the present painting the Christ Child, seated on Mary's lap, has a surprisingly unattractive face. The grape, which he takes from the bunch that his mother holds, refers to the Eucharist and to his role as Redeemer. Cranach depicts a forest in the background with a fortress on the right and a path leading up to it with a figure that has been identified as Saint Joseph. The fortress and the pine tree on the left are recurring elements in Cranach's religious compositions. This panel is notable for the exquisitely detailed treatment of the landscape, which contrasts with the monumental figure style. Painted in oil, it is signed on the low wall behind the Virgin with Cranach's usual symbol of the winged serpent. [Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]
Provenance:
- R. Langton Douglas, London
- R. Ederheimer, New York
- Schniewind Collection, New York
- 1936 Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano
- in 1992 on deposit in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
- in 1993 aquired by the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

[Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]
Exhibitions:
Rotterdam 1959/Essen 1960, No. 11
London 1961, No. 33
Basel 1974, No. 372
Washington (DC), Detroit (MI), Minneapolis (MN), Cleveland (OH), Los Angeles (CA), Denver (CO), Fort Worth (TX), Kansas City (MO), New York (NY) 1979 - 1981, No. 30
Paris 1982, No. 32
St Petersburg 1987, No. 12
Stuttgart 1988, No. 16
Madrid 2007, No. 154
Rome 2010, No. 48
Sources / Publications:
Reference on PageCatalogue NumberFigure/Plate
Exhib. Cat. Rome 2010277 - 279No. 48Pl. p. 279
Cat. Madrid 2009258-259Fig.
Heydenreich 2007 B38
Exhib. Cat. Madrid 2007/2008323-325No. 154Fig. p. 351
Evans 200755, 5610
Pérez-Jofre 2001146-147Fig.
Cat. Madrid 200064-65Fig.
Heydenreich 1998 A190
Schade, Schuttwolf 1994
Cat. Madrid 1992296-297, 672No. 114Fig.
Lübbeke 1991190-193No. 42Fig.
Cat. Lugano-Castagnola 198989Fig.
Exhib. Cat. Stuttgart 1988No. 16
Cat. Lugano-Castagnola 198686No. 77Fig.
Exhib. Cat. Paris 1982No. 32
Sutton 197913, 19Fig. 31
Friedländer, Rosenberg 1979No. 30
Exhib. Cat. Washington 1979No. 30
Strieder 1975170
Exhib. Cat. Basel 1974524-526No. 372Figs. 280, 281
Schade 197441, 60
Cat. Lugano-Castagnola 196987 (vol. 1)No. 77Fig. 59 (vol. 2)
Exhib. Cat. London 1961No. 33
Exhib. Cat. Essen 1960No. 11
Exhib. Cat. Rotterdam 1959No. 11
Cat. Lugano-Castagnola 1958No. 105
Exhib. Cat. Lugano 194926No. 67
Cat. Lugano-Castagnola 1937No. 105Fig. 50
Kuhn 19363575pl. XVII
Friedländer, Rosenberg 19323529Fig. 29
Interpretation / History / Discussion:
Cranach’s religious paintings were extremely well received in his day. This was undoubtedly due in part to certain characteristic features that are to be found in this Virgin and Child, which is generally dated to the first decade of the 16th century. The Virgin’s face, which is softly outlined and modelled, recalls Leonardo’s technique of sfumato. Such features, which made Cranach’s figures particularly sweet and gentle, are to be found in his work of around 1509 and 1510 following a trip to the Low Countries during which he may have had the chance to study Italian art at the court of Margaret of Austria. In addition, a similar approach to volume is to be found in two important works of this period: Salome, in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Kronach, and Venus and Cupid in The Hermitage, St. Petersburg. The present panel has been compared to those two works with regard to its date. Despite the softness evident in the two figures, whose heads are crowned with delicate, almost invisible, glowing haloes, the face of the Infant Christ is less pleasing with regard to its features and handling than Mary’s beautiful, rounded countenance.
The present panel has a landscape background, an element that was always crucial in Cranach’s compositions from the outset of his career and which contained elements that would subsequently be developed by the Danube School artists. This landscape, depicted from a high viewpoint, is organized around a large expanse of woodland that terminates in a chain of mountains painted in striking tones of blue, which leads the eye into the distance. The fortress on the top of the mountain on the right and the pine tree on the left are recurring motifs in Cranach’s compositions and are to be found in his Virgin and Child groups of around 1518. Lübbeke drew attention to the particular treatment that the artist gave to both the figures and the landscape in the present panel. In the landscape Cranach included the most minute details on a tiny scale such as the delicate branches of the trees, the shrubs and the fortress on the right. We can also make out a tiny figure who has been identified as Saint Joseph climbing up the steep path to the fortress. The precision in the depiction of the background contrasts with the brushwork and sense of monumentality of the foreground, occupied by the two figures. They are imbued with a sense of melancholy which is expressed in the Virgin’s gaze and in the Infant Christ’s self-absorption.
The fact that the composition includes a bunch of grapes held by the Virgin and which the Christ Child is eating has suggested a reference to the Eucharist and to Christ’s future role as Redeemer. The panel is signed with the winged serpent on the ledge on the left. Cranach derived this element from the coat-of-arms granted to him by the Elector of Saxony in 1508. On the death of his son Hans the artist modified the wings.
[Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]
'The Venus in St Petersburg from 1509 (No. 21) is a very similar in style.'
[Friedländer, Rosenberg 1932, 35, No. 29]
Material / Technique:
  • Date: 2012
  • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
  • Infrared reflectography
  • Support
  • - beech wood
    - the panel c. 4-6 mm thick is glued to a conifer board
    - format is the original; probably slightly trimmed on the sides and minimally at the top: lower edge probably original
  • Underdrawing
  • - very sparse underdrawing visible with infra-red reflectography
    [Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]
      • Date: 2008
      • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
      • Infrared reflectography
      • Lucas Cranach the Elder - Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid - The Virgin with Child with a Bunch of Grapes - Infrared Images
      • Underdrawing
      • DESCRIPTION

        Tools/Materials:
        - fluid black medium and brush

        Type/Ductus:
        - freehand underdrawing
        - thin lines; in part slightly broader (in the robes)

        Function:
        - relatively binding for the final painted version; lines delineate contours; no representation of volume

        Deviations:
        - minor alterations made during the painting process to clearly define form; small changes (e.g. Christ’s head)

        INTERPRETATION

        Attribution:
        - Lucas Cranach the Elder

        [Smith, Sandner, Heydenreich, cda 2013]
        • photographed by: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
        • Date: 2007
        • Technologische Untersuchung / Naturwissenschaftliche Materialanalyse
        • X-radiography
        • Lucas Cranach the Elder - Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid - The Virgin with Child with a Bunch of Grapes - X-Radiographs
          • created by: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
          Condition Reports:
          • Date: 2012
          • - the panel c. 4-6 thick is glued to a conifer board - format is the original; probably slightly trimmed on the sides and minimally at the top: lower edge probably original - on the right edge some paint losses and fillings - vertical crack in the middle [Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, revised 2012]