Cranach - Hercules with Omphale
Hercules with Omphale
Lucas Cranach the Elder and Workshop
Private Collection
06.12.2021 - 12:03
Choose objects with for comparison
CDA ID / Inventory NumberPRIVATE_NONE-P321
Persistent Link
FR (1978) No.FR-none
Hercules with Omphale[cda 2020]
Lucas Cranach the Elder and Workshop[unpublished examination report, Heydenreich 19.09.2018]
about 1535 - 1538[unpublished examination report, Heydenreich 19.09.2018]
Owner / Repository / Location:
OwnerPrivate Collection
RepositoryPrivate Collection
Dimensions of support: 83 x 120.8 x 0.7 cm
[unpublished examination report, Heydenreich 19.09.2018]
Painting on wood
[unpublished examinatioin report, Heydenreich 19.09.2018]
Signature / Date:
Artist's insignia at the right edge: serpent with dropped wings; in yellow paint (preserved only in part, uncovered during conservation treatment 2012 - 2015).
Inscriptions, Marks, Labels, Seals:
Original Inscriptions:
- at the top left in yellow paint:
After the removal of overpaint in the background at the right beside the distaff a further inscription in German was made visible:
'ES W[?]AER I[…]E KAIN MAN SO […] IN // […]EWAN[?] GEO[?]ENAT DVRCH FR[…]U[…]T […]'
Inscriptions, Marks, Labels, Seals:
- in blue chalk: '55867'
- on the reverse of the frame:
a label: 'Treuhandbüro Eize GmbH, Schlägelstr. 9, 47198 Duisburg, Tel…, M. und H. Stemmler GmbH, Inv. Nr. 418'
[unpublished examination report, Heydenreich 19.09.2018]
The panel shows Hercules sitting on a bench spinning thread. He is surrounded by three maids who hold the thread and distaff while placing a white cloth on his head. Omphale stands in regal dress to the right of the image and looks out at the viewer. A dead drake hangs on the wall at the left. A Latin inscription in the background comments the scene. The subject of Hercules with Omphale was executed by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Lucas Cranach the Younger, Hans Cranach and workshop assistants in various versions in the 1530s. This panel is very similar to a composition now in the Nationalmuseum in Warsaw (after 1537; PL_MNW_MOb2536). A study on paper preserved in the Prints and drawings Department, Dresden (Inv. Nr. C 1960-31) may have been used for the drakes in the background. It also served as a pattern for other paintings like Hercules with Omphale, formerly in Göttingen (1532; DE_USGLost_39) and The Ill-matched Pair, Stockholm (1532; SE_NMS_258).
[unpublished examination report, Heydenreich 19.09.2018]
- Stemmler Collection, Cologne
- Kunsthaus Lempertz, 468. Lempertz auction, Cologne, 17.05.1962, lot 42
[unpublished examination report, Heydenreich 19.09.2018]
- since 2007 in a private collection, Bamberg
[; accessed 10.08.2020]
Interpretation / History / Discussion:

The paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder and his workshop from the 1530s often exhibit an economical underdrawing executed with a dark, dry drawing material, probably chalk. The stylistic features of the underdrawing found on this painting differ from those found on works by Lucas Cranach the Younger and Hans Cranach. Lucas Cranach the Younger drew his design with short lines. Hans executed the underdrawing for the panel Hercules with Omphale (1537, ES_MTB_108-1929-15) with more detail and adhered to it more rigorously during the painting process. Here the underdrawing is similar to other compositions attributed to Lucas Cranach the Elder.

The identified methods of paint application, like for example the execution of the green and red velvet draperies over a black underpaint were standard practice in the Cranach workshop. Numerous corrections made during the painting process to the initial design and in particular the high quality rendering of the flesh paint could indicate the work of Lucas Cranach the Elder.

The structure and distribution of the fibres in the x-radiograph is similar to many other Cranach panels. Furthermore the black painted lines around the edges have been frequently documented on Cranach paintings.

The shape of the letters in the inscription (e. g. ‚M‘ and ‚AE‘) differ from the inscriptions on other versions of Hercules with Omphale (e. g.: DE_HAUMB_GG25, F_FBT_P70, DK_SMK_KMSsp727, DE_USG-Lost_39, ES_MTB_108-1929-15; PL_MNW_MOb2536). A similar typeface can be found on the panel of Christ and the Adulteress (1537 or later; CZ_NGP_DO4211). These observations suggest the allocation of work for the execution of these and other panels.

In the composition numerous elements were employed that appear in other works from the workshop from about 1532; for example the dead drakes hanging on the wall, the decorative elements on the necks and heads of the women as well as many of the hands. Here the playful connection between the hands of Hercules and one of the maids is particularly ingenious. Although the insignia has only been preserved in part there can be no doubt that angled bird’s wings are represented here. To date the earliest record of this shape is on the painting Hercules with Omphale (DK_SMK_KMSsp727), dated 1535.

[unpublished examination report, Heydenreich 19.09.2018]
Material / Technique:
  • Date: 19.09.2018
  • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
  • Stereomicroscopy
  • Infrared reflectography
  • X-radiography
  • UV-light photography
  • 8.01 Support
  • The wooden panel (83 x 120.8 x 0.7 cm) consists of a number of hardwood planks of varying width. The planks are horizontally aligned and butt joined. The sides of the panel do not run parallel to each other.

    The x-radiography shows that the application of fibre runs across the planks.

    There is an original wooden insert at the left edge above the centre.

    The proportions and size of the panel corresponds with the standard format 'E' used frequently in the Ccranach workshop from about 1520.
  • 8.02 Ground and Imprimatura
  • The panel exhibits a white ground, probably a chalk ground.

    A barbe is not visible.

    There is a black painted line of c. 1 cm width along the left and right edges of the panel.
  • 8.03 Underdrawing
  • The infrared reflectogram (Osiris, 900-1700nm) shows an underdrawing executed using dark chalk. The freehand and confident drawing of the figures with curved lines of varying length concentrates on describing the main contours and essential details. Heads, hands and draperies are defined with only a few lines and developed during the painting process. The neck and shoulder contours of the lady to the right of Hercules appear to have been shifted to the left during the creative process. In the faces the definition of the mouth, nose and eyes is also very sparing. Here the details were elaborated during the painting process and the position was occasionally altered. This is clearly visible in the face of the woman behind Hercules.
  • 8.04 Paint Layers and Gilding
  • The faces were laid in employing a pale admixture of lead white and vermilion. Shadows were modulated with semi-transparent brown-black tones. Red paint was used to accentuate the cheeks. Volume and lighting were subsequently sensitively worked up with light opaque flesh paint. The eyes including the eyelashes appear to be executed with routine. The hair was laided in using a reddish brown underpaint and defined with fine, confident strokes. The red and green velvet robes were executed over a black underpaint, using red and green paint to define the folds, and were then drawn together with a semi-transparent glaze. The fur was laid in with brown underpaint and then defined with a split tipped brush. No major alterations in the composition are visible in the x-radiography (Seifert ERESCO 150KV/0,5mA / Examion CR 3X-pro). The fragment of German inscription in the background is today only visible as a difference in gloss. It is possible that this text had already been abandoned and replaced with the Latin text during the creative process.

    [unpublished examination report, Heydenreich 19.09.2018]
    • examined by: Gunnar Heydenreich
    Condition Reports:
    • Date: 19.09.2018
    • The painting was considerably damaged in the past. In more recent times the panel was thinned and reinforced with a cradle, and trimmed slightly along the top and bottom edges. The thinning of the reverse and the subsequent reinforcement has caused a slight washboard deformation to the panel. Inactive woodworm channels are exposed on the reverse.

      In many areas the paint layer is extremely abraded. The head of Hercules and numerous draperies are particularly affected. In contrast the faces of the women are in relatively good condition. Until 2012 the painting was considerably disfigured by extensive overpaint and amendments. These additions were removed during conservation treatment in 2015 and the losses were subtly retouched. This was executed in the face and beard of Hercules in consideration of the remaining original material. The natural cracking pattern in the paint layers has in places been enhanced by the original fibre application on the panel.

      The original frame has not been preserved.

      [unpublished examination report, Heydenreich 19.09.2018]
    • examined by: Gunnar Heydenreich
    History of Restoration:
    • Date: 2012 - 2015
    • Conservation treatment carried out between 2012 - 2015 by Holger Manzke, Potsdam
      [unpublished examination report, Heydenreich 19.09.2018]
    • conservation treatment by: Holger Manzke