Cranach - The Nymph of the Fountain
The Nymph of the Fountain
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
01.06.2020 - 21:07
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Painting:
CDA ID / Inventory NumberUK_WAG_1223
Persistent Linkhttp://lucascranach.org/UK_WAG_1223
FR (1978) No.FR259
Title:
The Nymph of the Fountain[Walker Art Gallery, revised 2016]
Attribution:
Lucas Cranach the Elder [Walker Art Gallery, revised 2016]
Dating:
1534[dated]
Owner / Repository / Location:
OwnerWalker Art Gallery, Liverpool
RepositoryWalker Art Gallery, Liverpool
LocationLiverpool
Dimensions:
Dimensions of support:51.3 x 76.8 cm [Walker Art Gallery, revised 2016]
Support:
Painting on wood [Walker Art Gallery, revised 2016]
Signature / Date:
Artist's insignia on the fountain: winged serpent and dated '1534'; in black paint
Description:
The reclining female nude composition was based on an ancient text describing a spring or fountain guarded by a statue of a nymph. It was a motif repeated several times in Cranach's workshop. The Latin inscription on the fountain represents the lasciviously smiling nymph's words as she looks out at us through half-closed eyes: 'I, the nymph of the sacred fountain, am resting; do not disturb me.' Such seductive nudes are characteristic of Cranach's mature style. [Walker Art Gallery, revised 2016]
Provenance:
- Thomas Wilkinson junior sale Winstanley & Son, 34 Russell Square, London, 29 June 1811, lot 53, as 'The Fountain Nymph exquisitely finished by Lucca Cranach', £13 12s 6d [1]
- Thomas Winstanley; acquired by the Liverpool Royal Institution before 1851.

[1]A 'Venus, by Lucus Cranach' was later offered by Winstanley in a sale which included paintings 'lately brought from the continent', Liverpool, 16-17 November 1815; no catalogue survives, but the sale was advertised in the Liverpool Mercury, 10 November 1815, p. 149). WAG 1223 may have been among a group of unidentified pictures deposited at the Liverpool Royal Institution by Thomas Winstanley, which were accepted on 12 October 1842 (University of Liverpool Library, Archives and Special Collections, LRI Committee minute book, LRI/1/2/1). A letter of 9 March 1858 from M. Bewley & Son to the President of the Institution refers to a 'painting belonging to the late T. Winstanley Esq. which was lent by him to the Institution a long time ago - the subject a nude female fugure supposed to be the portrait of Lucca Cranach' (University of Liverpool Library, Archives and Special Collections, LRI 1/3/2). A monogram in grey-white paint consisting of the letters FW or EW was discovered in the lower left corner of WAG 1223 during surface cleaning in 2012-2013.
[Joseph Sharples, Walker Art Gallery; https://vads.ac.uk/large.php?uid=243693&sos=0]
Exhibitions:
Manchester 1857, No. 457
Leeds 1868, No. 539
Manchester 1957, No. 44
Manchester 1965, No. 77
Sources / Publications:
Reference on PageCatalogue NumberFigure/Plate
Cat. Coburg 201892, fn. 19under no. 15
Material / Technique:
  • Date: 2016
  • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
  • X-radiography
  • Lucas Cranach the Elder - Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool - The Nymph of the Fountain - X-RadiographsLucas Cranach the Elder - Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool - The Nymph of the Fountain - X-RadiographsLucas Cranach the Elder - Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool - The Nymph of the Fountain - X-RadiographsLucas Cranach the Elder - Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool - The Nymph of the Fountain - X-RadiographsLucas Cranach the Elder - Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool - The Nymph of the Fountain - X-RadiographsLucas Cranach the Elder - Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool - The Nymph of the Fountain - X-Radiographs
  • Full X-ray montage:
    The X-ray montage shows a number of features a little more clearly. The fill over the stepped join to the reverse is clearly visible as more dense material, and it shows the tapering nature of the step. The join line itself is apparently sound, although the join faces vary in thickness between about 5mm down to 2.5mm or thereabouts. The working tool marks on the reverse are visible. Less clear is the nature of the ground preparation – some of the subtle differences in density may well be due to variations in the ground layer across the picture. A dense white mark at mid right may be the remnant of a small pin or nail used for past framing, while that at the lower right corner is an area of fill. There are scattered old paint losses, and a damage to the left side of the lower edge. Some other less distinct areas across the paint layer seem to show possible thinning or old damage to the paint which have been restored, for instance to the lower left corner.
    The most obvious possible change in the design is the line of the sitters’ proper left lower leg, where the X-ray shows a position of the leg slightly further to the right than visible in the painted image.
    (Details: 59733 – X-ray detail lower left, 59734 – X-ray detail lower right, 59735 – X-ray detail upper left, 59736 – X-ray detail upper right)
    X-ray detail of initials under overpaint, lower left corner (see also: normal light detail of initials after overpaint removal):
    Both the above images relate to the discovery on the X-radiograph of painted initials, either E.W. or possibly F.W., at the lower left corner. These overly the original paint, but were obscured by darkened varnish remnants. These were partially cleaned locally to try and reveal the lettering. These initials are presumed to belong to a previous owner, who has yet to be firmly identified. However, it should be noted that the painting may have been that sold by a Thomas Wilkinson junior at Winstanley & Son auctioneers of 34 Russell Square, London, 29 June 1811 lot 53 as "The Fountain Nymph exquisitely finished by Lucca [sic] Cranach" see: https://vads.ac.uk/large.php?uid=243693&sos=0
    [David Crombie, Walker Art Gallery, 2016]
    • created by: David Crombie
    • Date: 2016
    • Technical Examination
    • UV-light photography
    • Lucas Cranach the Elder - Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool - The Nymph of the Fountain - UV Images
    • Front UV light:
      (Note: the brighter green vertical strip to the right of the panel is a camera artefact and should be ignored). The image reveals mixed and rather patchy fluorescence of one or more likely natural resin varnishes which date from previous undated restoration treatments. (A label on the reverse notes at least one treatment in 1908). Some of the differences in fluorescence might suggest partial cleaning in the past. There are also darker areas of likely retouching and restoration around some of the features of the composition, which seem to be under at least the most recent varnish layer, and possibly earlier ones.
      [David Crombie, Walker Art Gallery, 2016]
      • photographed by: David Crombie
      • Date: 2016
      • Technical Examination
      • Other imaging techniques
      • Lucas Cranach the Elder - Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool - The Nymph of the Fountain - Overall
      • Front, raking light from left:
        Raking light reveals a relatively consistent pattern of raised cracquelure in the paint, with one or two areas where paint edges are more distinct, such as the upper part of the face, just above the join in the two boards. Some very slight surface undulations to the panel support are evident towards the upper right.
        Reverse, raking light from left:
        Raking light across the reverse reveals the very distinct vertical tool markings across both boards, which are assumed to be original. It also reveals the disturbed and cracked fill which has been applied over what is assumed to be an original step in the board join, which is more pronounced along the right side of the join, (as viewed from the reverse). The top board seems to have been thinner than the bottom at the right side, to a maximum extent of about 2 – 2.5mm or so, hence the step. The fill is of unknown date, and while not analysed, appears to be of chalk and animal glue with unidentified fibres mixed into it. There is an ochre layer over this fill.
        [David Crombie, Walker Art Gallery, 2016]
        • photographed by: David Crombie
        • Date: 2016
        • Technical Examination
        • Lucas Cranach the Elder - Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool - The Nymph of the Fountain - ReverseLucas Cranach the Elder - Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool - The Nymph of the Fountain - Detail Images
        • Support
        • Reverse, normal light:
          (See also notes about the reverse, raking light photograph). This image shows the construction of the panel with two boards, grain of both running horizontally, joined along the centre. The wood of the panel has tentatively been identified as beech [1]. The filled areas with ochre coloured paint overlying the join are visible, as is some of the cracking and flaking of this old fill over the stepped join line. (There is an even though slight convex warp across the whole panel from top to bottom).
          [1] Identification of wood species by Ian Tyers, 2016
        • Paint Layers and Gilding
        • - unpainted or partially painted edges are visible at left and right sides of the panel.
          • written by: David Crombie
          History of Restoration:
          • Date: 1908
          • A label on the reverse of the panel serves to document treatmenz in 1908.