Cranach - Madonna and Child
Madonna and Child
Lucas Cranach the Elder
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.
28.09.2020 - 23:37
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CDA ID / Inventory NumberUS_NGA_1953-3-1
Persistent Link
FR (1978) No.FR390
Madonna and Child[] (accessed 08.02.2013)
Lucas Cranach the Elder [] (accessed 08.02.2013)
about 1535'probably c. 1535 or after' [] (accessed 08.02.2013)
about 1537[Friedländer, Rosenberg 1932, No. 314]
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Owner / Repository / Location:
OwnerNational Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.
RepositoryNational Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.
Dimensions of support: 71.2 x 52.1 cm (28 1/16 x 20 1/2 in.) [] (accessed 08.02.2013)
Painting on beech wood [Klein, Report 1994] [] (accessed 08.02.2013)
Signature / Date:
Artist's insignia at the top right, above the Madonna's shoulder: winged serpent with folded (?) wings [] (accessed 08.02.2013)
Cranach, court painter to the dukes of Saxony, employed a highly sophisticated, stylized manner, evident here in the rich coloring and decorative folds of Mary's elaborate garments. On his knee Jesus balances an apple, symbolizing the Forbidden Fruit and implying that Christ will redeem humanity. He eats a grape from the bunch offered by his mother. These grapes and the glass on the parapet refer to the eucharistic wine of the Last Supper. [] (accessed 08.02.2013)
- (Probably H. Michels Gallery, Berlin, by 1929).[1]
- (Van Diemen & Co., New York, by November, 1929).[2]
- Adolph Caspar Miller, Washington, by April 1937[3]
- gift 1953 to NGA

[1] Unverified, but cited by Friedländer, Max J. and Jakob Rosenberg. Die Gemälde von Lucas Cranach. Berlin, 1932: 87, no. 314, repro. (Rev. ed. The Paintings of Lucas Cranach, Amsterdam, 1978, 147, no. 390, repro.). The reproduction caption says 'formerly' with H. Michels.
[2] Exhibited at the Van Diemen Galleries, New York; the exact dates of the show are not known, but there was an advertisement for the exhibition in the New York Times, 17 November 1929, section 9. In 1935 the Berlin branches van Diemen and its affiliated galleries were liquidated by order of the Nazis, with sales organized by Graupe on 25 January and 26 April. This painting was not in either of those sales, and thus had been sold from or remained with the New York branch between 1929-1935.
[3] Listed as belonging to Miller in the catalogue of the 1937 exhibition Paintings and Sculpture Owned in Washington, Phillips Memorial Gallery, Washington, 1937, no. 6.

[] (accessed 008.02.2012)
1929 New York, 1929
1937 Washington, No. 6
Sources / Publications:
Reference on PageCatalogue NumberFigure/Plate
Wheeler 1998126No. 15Fig.
Löcher 1995 A15
Cat. Washington 199331-34Fig. p. 33
Auct. Cat. London 1991No. 196
Cat. Washington 1985104Fig.
Cat. Washington 1984165No. 182Fig.
Friedländer, Rosenberg 1979No. 390
Strauss 197242, 43No. 21Fig.
Calvesi 197198Fig. 7
Anzelewsky 1971134-137Nos. 39-40
Cat. Washington 196533
Friedländer, Rosenberg 193287314
Interpretation / History / Discussion:
'In terms of both style and compositional type, the Washington painting may be associated with a group of pictures depicting the Christ Child standing on the Madonna’s lap and preparing to eat a grape [1]. [...] Another related type includes the infant John the Baptist asleep [2]. Because the Child is shown standing on a parapet and not in the Madonna’s lap, the National Gallery’s picture does not correspond exactly to the other depictions of this theme. A version of the Washington panel that was on the art market in Switzerland in 1972 contains a window looking out on a landscape at the upper right corner [3]. The size of the landscape appears to correspond to the size of the missing top right corner of the National Gallery’s painting and suggests that the background may once have been enlivened by a window and a landscape view. A second replica, also containing a landscape, recently appeared on the market [4].
Interestingly, the ‘Madonna and Child’ was strongly influenced by the early works of Albrecht Dürer. As observed by Talbot, the crinkled, angular drapery folds of the Madonna’s robe and knotted sash are similar to those found in Dürer’s engraving of the ‘Madonna with the Monkey’ from about 1498 [5]. The motif of the standing Child and the placement of the Virgin behind a foreground ledge are found in the Madonnas of Giovanni Bellini, but it is likely that they were transmitted to Cranach through Dürer. For example, Dürer’s ‘The Virgin with the sleeping Child between Saints Anthony and Sebastian’ (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Gemäldegalerie, Dresden), painted just after his first trip to Venice, shows the Christ Child on a ledge in the foreground with the Madonna behind. Since Dürer’s painting was commissioned by Friedrich the Wise for the palace church in Wittenberg, it would have been well known to Cranach [6]. Moreover, as probably first noted by Shapley, the pose of the infant Christ, balancing on one leg with the other raised and the foot pressed against the knee, is found in reverse in Dürer’s ‘Madonna and Child’ (National Gallery of Art, Washington, Inv. No. 1952.2.16a), which derives from Bellini and was painted following Dürer’s first trip to Venice [7]. Although the use of such Venetian-inspired devices as the foreground ledge is perhaps more frequent in Cranach’s works from around 1510, they are not unknown in the mature paintings, such as the ‘Virgin and Child with Angels’ of c. 1525 (FR160) [8].'

[1] [Friedländer, Rosenberg 1978, Nos. 388, 389]
[2] [Friedländer, Rosenberg 1978, Nos. 386, 387, 392]
[3] Wood, 85 x 60 cm, sale, Galerie Fischer, Lucerne, 25 November 1972, no. 2355, called Workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder.
[4] Wood, 79.5 x 56 cm, [Auct. Cat. London 1991, No. 196]
[5] Talbot, draft catalogue entry, 1966, in NGA curatorial files. For Dürer’s engraving [Bartsch, 42] see [Strauss 1972, 42, 43, No. 21, Fig.]
[6] Pointed out by Talbot, draft catalogue entry, 1966, in NGA curatorial files. Following Anzelewsky 1971, 134 -137. Nos. 39, 40 it is now believed that the center portion of the work of a Netherlandish artist but was possibly reworked by Dürer when he added the wings. This does not obviate the strong Venetian flavor of the painting.
[7] Fern Rusk Shapley, discussion, 19 January 1959, in NGA curatorial files.
[8] [Friedländer, Rosenberg 1978, No. 160]. For examples of Cranach’s earlier Madonnas set in front of a landscape and including a bunch of grapes held either by the Child or the Virgin see [Friedländer, Rosenberg 1978, Nos. 29, 30] (PL_DMW_FR029, ES_MTB_114-1936-1).

[Hand, Cat. Washington 1993, 32, 34]
Material / Technique:
  • Date: 27.04.2015
  • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
  • Identification of wood species / Dendrochronology
  • X-radiography
  • Infrared reflectography
  • Micro-sampling / cross-sections
  • Micro-sampling / cross-sections
  • Infrared reflectography
  • Instrumental material analysis
  • Support
  • Wood analysis and dendrochronological study done some years ago identified the wood support as two planks of beechwood with vertical grain, joined vertically just right of center. The two planks were felled many years apart (plank one 1406-53, plank two 1480-1513), suggesting the planks were stored for long periods in the workshop. Beech was often used by Cranach and his workshop, especially for small paintings during the years 1520-1535, but not by other artists, so in a sense it acts as a fingerprint for his more immediate workshop’s production. Later more remote workshop copies are reported by Heydenreich in his 2007 publication to be on pine ( the Warsaw version of the NGA painting, a distant workshop product of c. 1600, is described as being on spruce) Therefore a date c. 1520-35 seems reasonable. This dating is supported by the dragon monogram with upright wings, which indicates a date before 1537, when Cranach’s son died and the dragon’s wings were painted in a folded position. Cranach’s very early paintings are not joined vertically, even when the painting has a vertical orientation, so the NGA painting doesn’t belong to that period based on support data. Stylistic similarity to paintings of the mid-1530s further narrows the date to those years.
    The trapezoidal wood insert filling a knothole is characteristic of Cranach’s workshop, as is the practice of joining the planks with glue but without dowels. Although workshop paintings done after 1520 commonly display a covering of tow along the joins, no evidence of it was visible during examination of the x-radiograph. Perhaps tow reinforcement was considered less essential on small panels and less important works. The NGA painting has a large square birch insert at the top right, to replace a missing original section, removed at an unknown date, that presumably contained a window with a view to a distant mountain and lake, visible in the other two versions of this painting (a high-quality version sold at Sotheby’s in 1990, present whereabouts unknown, and a later workshop copy c. 1600 in Warsaw, Muszeum Naradowe).
    [Carol Christensen, Results of Technical Analysis, 27 May 2015]
  • Ground and Imprimatura
  • Although Cranach and his workshop sometimes employed colored primings on top of the ground layer, no evidence of that practice was found in the NGA painting. During microscopic exam, the white ground could be seen directly underneath the surface paint layers, and this was confirmed by examination of two cross-sections. There was no white lead priming layer over the ground. Hatching, common in Cranach works, was not used, and the paint layers were quite thin, making use of the white ground beneath as body color, altered with glazes in highlighted areas. These techniques, consistent with a workshop in which fast streamlined production was important, place the NGA painting technique in the period of increased workshop production. Black was used to tone down bright colors in the shadows, a typical practice in Cranach’s workshop.
    [Carol Christensen, Results of Technical Analysis, 27 May 2015]
  • Paint Layers and Gilding
  • Analysis of two cross-section paint samples revealed that the ground layer is natural chalk rather than a mineral calcium carbonate. Bits of coccoliths are apparent in this layer, which was sealed with medium-rich layer containing a smattering of lead white, chalk and a copper green. Infrared reflectography revealed that the composition was placed on the prepared panel with two different types of underdrawing. A dry-medium stylus-type underdrawing defines an earlier placement of the Child’s proper left arm and folded drapery covering his groin. Both elements were eliminated during the painting process. It is likely that this stylus underdrawing was used to trace a preparatory drawing onto the prepared panel, a theory put forward by Heydenreich but unproven at the time of his book’s 2007 publication due to the lack of imaging evidence of this tracing. However as Heydenreich notes, just such practices are described in important contemporary treatises. Comparison of a tracing made from the Warsaw painting confirms the two paintings were made from the same cartoon, since the tracing aligns with the NGA painting exactly, although the paintings differ slightly in size (by 2 cm).
    Elemental identification was undertaken using FORS and XRF to non-invasively identify certain pigments and infer the presence of others. This analysis suggested that the blue sash of the Virgin was created using azurite and lead white. Stereomicroscopic examination revealed that they were not mixed in the sash knot, but applied as defined stripes of blue and white, with black pigment used to render the shadows. In the Virgin’s sleeves the blue and white pigments are mixed to obtain the subtle nuances of folded fabric. Her blue-green mantle is created with a base of azurite, which appears on the surface in the highlights. On top of the azurite, verdigris and a black pigment are mixed in various proportions to create the midtones and shadows, which are green in the darkest areas. Vermilion predominates in the reds and oranges. The brightest red is created with vermilion and red earth covered by a red lake glaze precipitated on chalk. Black is added in the shadows. The orange shawl is a mixture of vermilion, red earth, red lake, and lead-tin yellow. In the brown hair of the Virgin, iron predominates, with slightly lower amounts of mercury and lead, suggesting a mixture of earth browns, vermilion and lead white. The presence in that area of small amounts of potassium and silica is consistent with earth pigments . Highlights in the hair were painted with a combination of lead white and lead tin yellow. The lips of the Virgin were a mixture of vermilion, iron red and lead white in highlighted areas. In the cool red shadows of the lips, less mercury was present, but aluminum was also detected, probably from a substrate onto which a red lake was cast. The flesh areas were a mixture of lead white, vermilion and red earths.
    One sample was taken from the blue robe for medium identification, since azurite bound in glue has been identified in some paintings by Cranach. The azurite in the NGA painting was bound in oil. FORS analysis suggested egg yolk tempera was present in all areas except the oil-bound blue-green mantle. However no firm inference about medium should be made solely on FORS data, since medium analysis has not been done except in the blue-green mantle.
    As of today, no report on the medium or SEM analysis of the two cross-sections has been received.
    [Carol Christensen, Results of Technical Analysis, 27 May 2015]
    • examined by: Carol Christensen
    • Date: 01.01.2014
    • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
    • Infrared reflectography
    • Lucas Cranach the Elder - National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C. - Madonna and Child - Infrared Images
    • DESCRIPTION (on the basis of details)

      - dark, dry drawing material, stylus

      - economic underdrawing
      - delicate fine lines
      - roughly binding for the final painted version; the lines delineate the main contours, no representation of volume with hatching strokes

      - corrections were made to forms during the painting process; changes (e. g. the infant Christ’s left arm)


      - Lucas Cranach the Elder or workshop member

      - probably transferred from a pre-existing design
      - PL_MNW_MOb2154 is an almost identical copy
      [Sandner, Smith-Contini, Heydenreich, cda 2017]
      • photographed by: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.
      • Date: 01.01.2014
      • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
      • X-radiography
      • Lucas Cranach the Elder - National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C. - Madonna and Child - X-RadiographsLucas Cranach the Elder - National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C. - Madonna and Child - X-Radiographs
        • created by: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.
        • Date: 21.01.1994
        • Scientific analysis
        • Identification of wood species / Dendrochronology
        • Support
        • The painting is comprised of two boards with vertically oriented grain. A dendrochronological examination by Peter Klein yielded dates of 1406-1453 and 1480-1513 for the boards [1].

          [1] The wood was identified as beech by Peter Klein, examination report, 5 May 1987, in NGA curatorial files, and by the National Gallery's scientific research department. The results were recorded again in a report from 21.01.1994 (see pdf).
          [] (accessed 08.02.2013)
          • analysed by: Peter Klein
          • Date: 1993
          • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
          • Infrared reflectography
          • Identification of wood species / Dendrochronology
          • Support
          • The painting is comprised of two boards with vertically oriented grain. A dendrochronological examination by Peter Klein yielded dates of 1406-1453 and 1480-1513 for the boards [1].

            [1] The wood was identified as beech by Peter Klein, examination report, 5 May 1987, in NGA curatorial files, and by the National Gallery's scientific research department.
          • Underdrawing
          • Examination with infrared reflectography disclosed underdrawing in what appears to be a liquid medium, which is especially visible in the knot of the Madonna's sash.
            [] (accessed 08.02.2013)
              Condition Reports:
              • Date: 1993
              • The panel has been thinned down to a thickness of 0.2 cm and an auxiliary support added. The support consists of a plywood composite board sandwiched between two thin sheets of wood. The panel was then cradled. Either before or after the panel was thinned, an inset of oak, 16.4 x 17 cm was added to the top right corner, replacing the original wood and paint, which had been lost. The x-radiograph indicates extensive woodworm damage throughout the panel, and this may be related to the loss of the corner, although it is also possible that this area contained a landscape that was cut out. The x-radiograph also suggests that a knot was removed and replaced with an inset and a filler before the panel was painted, because the craquelure pattern of the paint goes over the inset and also because the worm channels continue into the inset. Examination with infrared reflectography disclosed underdrawing in what appears to be a liquid medium, which is especially visible in the knot of the Madonna's sash. [] (accessed 08.02.2013)