Cranach - Primitive People
Primitive People
Lucas Cranach the Elder
The National Gallery, London
23.03.2019 - 20:05
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Painting:
CDA ID / Inventory NumberUK_NGL_3922
Persistent Linkhttp://lucascranach.org/UK_NGL_3922
FR (1978) No.FR263
Title:
Primitive People[Susan Foister, `Lucas Cranach the Elder, Primitive People' published online 2015, from 'The German Paintings before 1800' London, forthcoming.] nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/research/lucas-cranach-the-elder-primitive-people
The Close of the Silver Age (?)[The National Gallery, revised 2011]
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Attribution:
Lucas Cranach the Elder [The National Gallery, revised 2011]
Hans Cranach [Flechsig 1900 A, 268]
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Dating:
1527 - 1530[Susan Foister, `Lucas Cranach the Elder, Primitive People' published online 2015, from 'The German Paintings before 1800' London, forthcoming. nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/research/lucas-cranach-the-elder-primitive-people]
about 1530[Friedländer, Rosenberg 1979, No. 263]
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Owner / Repository / Location:
OwnerThe National Gallery, London
RepositoryThe National Gallery, London
LocationLondon
Dimensions:
Dimensions of support: 51.5 x 35.8 cm (including edging strips 51.5 x 38 cm) Dimensions of painted surface: 50.0 x 35.8 cm [Susan Foister, `Lucas Cranach the Elder, Primitive People' published online 2015, from 'The German Paintings before 1800' London, forthcoming.] www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/research/lucas-cranach-the-elder-primitive-people
Support:
Painting on oak [The National Gallery, revised 2011] [Klein, Report 1994]
Signature / Date:
None
Description:
Three naked women with children and four fighting men are set against a grassy foreground and a thick frieze of foliage, extending on the left almost to the top of the picture. The central and right-hand parts of the hedge are lower, revealing a landscape background of tall mountains with distant buildings in the centre and on the far right. The men form two pairs: on the left a man holding a still leafy wooden stake lies on the ground with blood streaming down his back, his mouth open in pain; he is being beaten by a standing bearded man with a long stick. On the right lies a bearded man who has evidently just been beaten to the ground by the white-bearded man standing over him, who holds a long leafy stick. In the foreground, on the left, a woman turns open-mouthed to look at the scene, herself holding a stick with the sharper end upwards, as if to defend herself or one of the men. Another woman, standing centrally and clasping the wrists of two babies, appears to be speaking to her. In the right-hand corner of the picture, apparently oblivious to the fighting behind her, a woman reclines in the grass with her baby; it looks up at her over her shoulder, while the baby behind reaches down as if to grab its hair or pluck some grass. [Susan Foister, `Lucas Cranach the Elder, Primitive People¿ published online 2015, from 'The German Paintings before 1800' London, forthcoming.] nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/research/lucas-cranach-the-elder-primitive-people
Provenance:
- the picture was in the collection of the German businessman George Edward Habich (1818-1901) at Kassel by 1880.[1]
- this painting was placed on loan to the Königliche Gemäldegalerie, Kassel, from 1880 until April 1892, together with other works owned by Habich.[2]
- it was lot 86 in the sale of the Habich collection of paintings sold by Lempertz, Heberle and Schall at Kassel on 10 May 1892, where it was bought by J.P. Richter for Dr Ludwig Mond.
- it was acquired by the National Gallery in 1924 as part of the Mond Bequest. [3]

[1] Habich was a collector of paintings and other works who spent much of his life in Boston, where he donated works to the Museum of Fine Arts in 1892.
[2] A letter of 21 January 1935 in the NG dossier from the Gemäldegalerie Kassel confirms that the Habich collection was at the Kassel Gallery from 1880 until April 1892.
[3]National Gallery archive: National Gallery Minutes of Board Meetings: 9th August 1907: Letter read from the Right Hon Lewis Harcourt on Dr Ludwig Mond's intention to bequeath his collection to the National Gallery, and to provide the money for a room to keep the pictures together.; 26th June 1924 (see for final list of paintings to be retained by the National Gallery, and those to be returned)

[Susan Foister, 'Lucas Cranach the Elder, Primitive People' published online 2015, from 'The German Paintings before 1800' London, forthcoming.]
www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/research/lucas-cranach-the-elder-primitive-people
Exhibitions:
Kassel 1880-92, on loan
London 1975, No. 62
London 1983-4
London 1997
Frankfurt, London 20072008, No. 105
Rome 2010, No. 6
Düsseldorf 2017, No. 134
Sources / Publications:
Reference on PageCatalogue NumberFigure/Plate
Exhib. Cat. Düsseldorf 2017234No. 134
Exhib. Cat. Rome 2010146 - 149No. 6Pl. p. 147, Pl. p. 149 (detail)
Martin 2010Fig. p. 48
Foister 200754-57
Evans 200758
Exhib. Cat. Frankfurt 2007336-339105pp. 337-339
Foister 2003123-127Fig. 7
Bierende 2002250-258
Cat. London 1999179ff.
Exhib. Cat. London 1997
Campbell et al. 1997
Bonnet 1994144
Cat. London 198594
Exhib. Cat. London 1983
Friedländer, Rosenberg 1979122263Fig. 263
Exhib. Cat. London 197562
Exhib. Cat. Basel 1974497, 498
Schade 197470, 79
Ettlinger 1961137
Cat. London 195921-23
Posse 194262
Friedländer, Rosenberg 1932215
Richter 1910589-590
Flechsig 1900 A268
Schuchardt 1871130f.
Schuchardt 1851 C132ff.
Interpretation / History / Discussion:
For further discussion of this painting see:
[Susan Foister, ‘Lucas Cranach the Elder, Primitive People’ published online 2015, from 'The German Paintings before 1800' London, forthcoming.]
nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/research/lucas-cranach-the-elder-primitive-people
Material / Technique:
  • Date: 2016
  • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
  • Ground and Imprimatura
  • The white ground is chalk. It continues to the side edges of the panel but at the top and bottom the ground and paint end just short of the edge with a slight 'barbe', leaving narrow strips of bare wood which would have been covered by an engaged frame.[1] In places along these unpainted edges there are traces of ground where it seeped under the frame when it was applied. No canvas or fibre reinforcement between panel and ground can be seen in X-radiographs. There does not appear to be a priming layer over the ground.
    [1] At this period it is also possible that temporary slotted wooden battens were in place top and bottom when the ground was applied, rather than a permanent engaged frame.
  • Support
  • - the support is an oak panel consisting of a single board of wood about 0.6 cm thick which is tangentially cut.[1]
    [1] Report by Dr Peter Klein of 8 March 1994 in the NG dossier. The tangential cut of the wood precludes dendrochronological dating.
  • Underdrawing
  • Nothing that could definitely be identified as black underdrawing could be found with infrared reflectography. In most places simple outlining in the surface paint masks any underdrawing that might be present, although a few lines, for example in the the back of the head and legs of the standing female figure in the centre, may be underdrawing in black that was not exactly followed. Examination of the surface with a microscope, however, revealed lines of red pigment below the uppermost layers of paint. These red lines appear to be performing the role of underdrawing. It has not been possible to identify the red material used. The lines can only be seen where the paint over them is pale in colour and thinly applied. They have been found in many areas, notably along several contours of the figures, and in the landscape.Where red lines were found they were less close to the final composition than the black lines mentioned above and so were probably drawn first.
  • Paint Layers and Gilding
  • Heat-bodied linseed oil was detected by GC–MS analysis in samples taken from the green paint of the foliage and in samples of blue and white paint taken from areas of the sky.
    Looking at the surface of the painting with a stereomicroscope, and at the paint cross-sections taken during cleaning in 1963, it is evident that the artist has underpainted the background, but not the figures, with varying shades of grey. In a sample from the green grass, this underpaint has a mid-grey tone and consists of lead white mixed with charcoal black and a little vermilion. In some places it can be seen to be thinly applied and streaky, for example in a small area at the right of the foreground where it is not completely covered by the green paint on top. Under the dark green of the background trees it is almost black, with just a little white and vermilion, and is again thin and streaky, as can be seen where it continues slightly beyond the foliage under the thin light grey rocks of the outcrop on the left. A similar thin dark paint is present under the blue parts of the sky and the distant mountains, rocks and buildings. The green paint is based on verdigris,[1] with varying amounts of lead-tin yellow and lead white. In the sky a mixture of lead white, azurite and a little pale red lake has been used. The flesh paint is composed of a mixture of lead white, red lake (with red fibres indicating that it was prepared from dyed textile shearings), black pigment of large particle size, and vermilion. More of this last pigment is present in the ruddier flesh of the standing men than in the pale flesh of the women. In general, the paint is quite thinly applied, although with slight impasto for highlights on leaves, and the small spots of white lichen on the trunk and branches of the trees at the left. In places it has been worked wet-in-wet, for example where it has been feathered to soften the contour at the edge of the central rock.
    [1] Verdigris was identified by ATR–FTIR imaging.
    [Susan Foister, ‘Lucas Cranach the Elder, Primitive People’ published online 2015, from 'The German Paintings before 1800' London, forthcoming.]
    www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/research/lucas-cranach-the-elder-primitive-people
      • Date: 01.04.1995
      • Scientific analysis
      • Micro-sampling / cross-sections
      • Instrumental material analysis
      • Media analysis:
        Heat-bodied linseed oil medium was identified by GC-MS analysis in all three samples; green foliage (bottom edge), white sky, blue sky with dark paint (possibly priming?) below. No ratios recorded.
        Green foliage, bottom edge, left-hand side (NB. This green was not particularly transparent).
        FTIR-microscopy suggested the use of a drying oil as paint medium. This was confirmed by GC-MS.. The source of the drying oil was linseed, which appeared to have been heat-prepolymerized. Ther was no indicatioin of the presence of natural resins. The green appeared to be a mixture of yellow (lead/tin yellow?) and blue; no verdigris or copper resinate appeared to be used as pigment, but the inorganic reports should be checked for confirmation of this.
        White sky above horizon, right-hand edge
        GC-MS analysis suggested the use of a heat-bodied linseed oil as paint medium for this sample.
        Blue sky with a little dark paint (possible priming?) beneath
        Heat bodied linseed oil was identified as the paint vehicle for both layers
        [NG 1995-04, National Gallery archive 2016]
          • Date: 09.02.1995
          • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
          • Micro-sampling / cross-sections
          • Sample taken by Marika Spring 09.02.1995. Observations under stereomicroscope: grey; looks like charcoal (?) black and white; light green and then darker green – both look more like verdigris, although it is quite a blue-green
            CDA ID/Inventory Number: UK_NGL_3922
            Cross-section number:
            Paint description: Plain green background for grass.
            Sample location: Plain green background for grass.
            Sample number: 1995/1
            Examination methods: microscopy
            Observations:
            • varnish and overpaint?
            • brownish green layer (with pigment as below)
            • green pigment (verdigris?) combined with lead white and a very few particles of red (earth?) and black.
            • grey underpaint, black (looks like charcoal) and lead white

            Comments:
            • analysed by: Marika Spring
            • Date: 08.03.1994
            • Scientific analysis
            • Identification of wood species / Dendrochronology
            • Support
            • Identification of wood species: oak
              • analysed by: Peter Klein
              • Date: 20.06.1963
              • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
              • Micro-sampling / cross-sections
              • Samples taken 20.6.1963 during the course of cleaning by J. Hargrave. Re-examined 1986 by Joyce Plester and A Roy. Re-polished (where possible) and photographed 2013.
                CDA ID/Inventory Number: UK_NGL_3922
                Cross-section number:
                Paint description: Brownish green of grass
                Sample location: from small damage near proper left bicep of reclining female figure (bottom right).
                Sample number: 1963/5
                Examination methods: microscopy

                Observations:
                • copper green pigment with a little (?) lead-tin yellow), a blue particle (right side) and a few red and yellow (earth?) particles
                • thin grey layer of lead white, charcoal black with a few of red (earth ? or red lead as a drier?)
                • chalk ground

                Comments:
                • analysed by: Ashok Roy
                • analysed by: J. Hargrave
                • analysed by: Joyce Plester
                • Date: 20.06.1963
                • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
                • Micro-sampling / cross-sections
                • Samples taken 20.6.1963 during the course of cleaning by J. Hargrave. Re-examined 1986 by Joyce Plester and A Roy. Re-polished (where possible) and photographed 2013.
                  CDA ID/Inventory Number: UK_NGL_3922
                  Cross-section number:
                  Paint description: Flesh of female figure (centre)
                  Sample location: from along crack in panel, just right of centre, above nipple.
                  Sample number: 1963/6
                  Examination methods: microscopy

                  Observations:
                  • lead white combined with a little vermilion (?) red and yellow (earth?) pigments, red lead (?) and black
                  • chalk ground

                  Comments:
                  NB a note by A. Roy suggests checked whether Samples 6 & 7 have been reversed.
                  • analysed by: Ashok Roy
                  • analysed by: J. Hargrave
                  • analysed by: Joyce Plester
                  • Date: 20.06.1963
                  • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
                  • Micro-sampling / cross-sections
                  • Samples taken 20.6.1963 during the course of cleaning by J. Hargrave. Re-examined 1986 by Joyce Plester and A Roy. Re-polished (where possible) and photographed 2013.
                    CDA ID/Inventory Number: UK_NGL_3922
                    Cross-section number:
                    Paint description: paler blue of sky
                    Sample location: from edge , two inches from top right corner.
                    Sample number: 1963/2
                    Examination methods: microscopy
                    Observations:
                    • few remaining particles of azurite combined with lead white
                    • thin grey layer of lead white, charcoal black with a few of red (earth ? or red lead as a drier?)
                    black layer consisting of coarse charcoal black particles
                    • white chalk/glue ground

                    Comments:
                    • analysed by: Ashok Roy
                    • analysed by: J. Hargrave
                    • analysed by: Joyce Plester
                    • Date: 20.06.1963
                    • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
                    • Micro-sampling / cross-sections
                    • Samples taken 20.6.1963 during the course of cleaning by J. Hargrave. Re-examined 1986 by Joyce Plester and A Roy. Re-polished (where possible) and photographed 2013.
                      CDA ID/Inventory Number: UK_NGL_3922
                      Cross-section number:
                      Paint description: Flesh of old man
                      Sample location: top right, from edge of proper right thigh.
                      Sample number: 1963/7
                      Examination methods: microscopy

                      Observations:
                      • lead white combined with a little vermilion (?) red and yellow (earth?) pigments and black
                      • chalk ground

                      Comments:
                      NB a note by A. Roy suggests checked whether Samples 6 & 7 have been reversed.
                      • analysed by: Ashok Roy
                      • analysed by: J. Hargrave
                      • analysed by: Joyce Plester
                      • Date: 20.06.1963
                      • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
                      • Micro-sampling / cross-sections
                      • Samples taken 20.6.1963 during the course of cleaning by J. Hargrave. Re-examined 1986 by Joyce Plester and A Roy. Re-polished (where possible) and photographed 2013.
                        CDA ID/Inventory Number: UK_NGL_3922
                        Cross-section number:
                        Paint description: Blue of sky
                        Sample location: mid blue from edge of small damage to left of rocky crag.
                        Sample number: 1963/1
                        Examination methods: microscopy
                        Observations:
                        • pale blue layer – lead white with azurite and a very few red (earth?) particles. In UV-light there also seems to be a particle of red lake in the upper paint layer.
                        • thin grey layer of lead white, charcoal black with a few of red (earth ? or red lead as a drier?)
                        black layer consisting of coarse charcoal black particles
                        • white chalk/glue ground

                        Comments:
                        • analysed by: Ashok Roy
                        • analysed by: J. Hargrave
                        • analysed by: Joyce Plester
                        • Date: 20.06.1963
                        • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
                        • Micro-sampling / cross-sections
                        • Samples taken 20.6.1963 during the course of cleaning by J. Hargrave. Re-examined 1986 by Joyce Plester and A Roy. Re-polished (where possible) and photographed 2013.
                          CDA ID/Inventory Number: UK_NGL_3922
                          Cross-section number:
                          Paint description: Bright green of leaves
                          Sample location: from isolated leaf-tip in damage top right corner
                          Sample number: 1963/4
                          Examination methods: microscopy
                          Observations:
                          • yellow glaze
                          • slightly greenish yellow layer, looking like lead-tin yellow
                          • black layer consisting of coarse charcoal black particles with a few of red (earth ? or red lead as a drier?)
                          • chalk ground

                          Comments:
                          • analysed by: Ashok Roy
                          • analysed by: J. Hargrave
                          • analysed by: Joyce Plester
                          • Date: 20.06.1963
                          • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
                          • Micro-sampling / cross-sections
                          • Samples taken 20.6.1963 during the course of cleaning by J. Hargrave. Re-examined 1986 by Joyce Plester and A Roy. Re-polished (where possible) and photographed 2013.
                            CDA ID/Inventory Number: UK_NGL_3922
                            Cross-section number:
                            Paint description: Black background to foliage
                            Sample location: near point of upraised stick of figure top left.
                            Sample number: 1963/3
                            Examination methods: microscopy
                            Observations:
                            • layer of yellow, brown and red earth pigments with a few particles of black and green
                            • black layer consisting of coarse charcoal black particles with a few of red (earth ? or red lead as a drier?)
                            • chalk ground

                            Comments:
                            • analysed by: Ashok Roy
                            • analysed by: J. Hargrave
                            • analysed by: Joyce Plester
                            Condition Reports:
                            • Date: 2016
                            • The paint is in reasonably good condition; there is a large loss in the top left corner and scattered losses elsewhere. The flesh is worn, especially in the dark areas. [Susan Foister, `Lucas Cranach the Elder, Primitive People' published online 2015, from 'The German Paintings before 1800' London, forthcoming.] www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/research/lucas-cranach-the-elder-primitive-people
                              • Date: 26.06.1924
                              • Actual state: good
                                History of Restoration:
                                • Date: 01.10.1963
                                • 26.06.1963: 'Generally in an excellent state of preservation; there are no major losses and very few small one. The flesh is slightly abraded in the half tones. Some paint is missing round the top of the head of the central female figure, and there are a few small losses and scratches at the left hand edge of the dark foliage. The varnish is discoloured and cracked. Treatment proposed: Remove varnish; retouch where necessary; revarnish.' [J. Hargrave, M. Levey 1963]
                                • During the cleaning the panel showed signs of warping so the cradle was removed and the back built up with Balsa wood and wax cement. The old varnish and repaint were removed with a mixture of Methylated Spirit and White Spirit. The paint proved to be rather more worn in the flesh than had previously been supposed, and in addition the plant covering the body of the figure at the right bottom corner was found to be a late addition. This was removed. Some of the retouching was done with egg tempera but most of it was carried out in MS2A resin medium. The picture was varnished with MS2A resin containing a small percentage of Stand Oil. [National Gallery archive 2016]
                                • conservation treatment by: J. Hargrave
                                • conservation treatment by: L. Howard
                                • Date: 01.07.1950
                                • - surface polished with a mastic wax mixture
                                • conservation treatment by: Smith
                                • Date: 1892
                                • According to the 1892 Habich sale catalogue (see Provenance), Professor Hauser of Munich had applied a new cradle to the painting: `Das vortrefflich erhaltene Gemälde wurde von Prof. Hauser (München) meisterhaft auf eine neue Holzplatte übertragen. [Susan Foister, `Lucas Cranach the Elder, Primitive People' published online 2015, from 'The German Paintings before 1800' London, forthcoming.] www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/research/lucas-cranach-the-elder-primitive-people