Cranach - Epitah painting for Wolfgang of Anhalt: Baptism of Christ
Epitah painting for Wolfgang of Anhalt: Baptism of Christ
Lucas Cranach the Younger
Evangelische Kirchengemeinde St. Bartholomäi, Zerbst
16.05.2022 - 07:34
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CDA ID / Inventory NumberDE_KBZ_NONE-KBZ001
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FR (1978) No.FR-none
Epitah painting for Wolfgang of Anhalt: Baptism of Christ[cda 2015]
Epitaph for Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt[Schulze 2004, 168]
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Lucas Cranach the Younger [Schade 1974, 96]
Owner / Repository / Location:
OwnerEvangelische Kirchengemeinde St. Bartholomäi, Zerbst
RepositoryEvangelische Kirchengemeinde St. Bartholomäi, Zerbst
Dimensions of visible surface 274 x 203.5 cm
Dimensions including frame: 347 x 276.5 x 23 cm
[Heydenreich, cda 2015]
Painting transferred from lime wood to a plywood board
[Schade 1974, 390] [Findeisen 2001, 185]
Signature / Date:
Artist's insignia and date at the bottom left: serpent with dropped wings, facing right, and dated '1568'; in yellow paint
[cda 2015]
Inscriptions, Marks, Labels, Seals:
In the middle-ground Luther holds an open book with the following text:
- The title extends over both pages:
'Matth. III Xvi[?]'
- left page:
'Diess ist
mein liber
Son, an wel=
chem ich ein'
- right page:
habe, den
sollet ihr
[Görres, cda 2015]

- inscription (after [Wieman 1907, 69f.]):

Piis manib.
Illustriss. Pr. ac Dn. D. Guolphgangi Dei Gr. Pr. Anhalt. Com.
Ascaniae Dn. Servestae et Bernburgi etc., qui Servestae pie de-
functus est anno Christi MDLXVI Martii D. XXIII. H. noct. XI.
Min. XLV. cumque magno familiae patriaeque luctu sepultus,
mensis eiusdem D. XXVII. H. X., aetatis anno LXXIIII currente,
In hoc choro, quem una cum templi parte contigua quae est inter
portas austral. et bor. ope sua fecit instaurari placidam.

Princeps Anhaltinae domus
Guolphgangus Ascaniae comes
Servesta quem dominum suum
Et Berneburga norat: O Patriae pater
Cui cura prima erat Deus, Temp. M.
Tutela legum proxima, D.
Salus quiritum tertia, H.
Postrema habiri asilum pauperum fuit. M.
Ardens amore coelitum, Aet. Pr.
Regnique particeps sui, An. Chris
Gnate o Dei vitae satur, ti
Fide supremam clausit hic firma diem Mundi
Senum sub hoste Martio,
Vicena lux et tertia,
Nonamque post hora altera
Punctumque fluxerat quadrantis ultimi.
Guolphgange vixisti pie,
O pax Anhaltinae domus.
Sepulte dormias senex,
Tristata sunt ob cuncta principem suum.
Patruo magno et parentis loco habito,
Nepp. et heredes Joachimus Ernestus et
Bernhardus FFr. Et PPr. Anhalt. moesti H. M. F. FF.
The painted epitaph depicts the Baptism of Christ in the river Jordan. Standing at the right edge of the painting is Christ wearing a loincloth, looking directly at the viewer and holding his hands in an attitude of prayer. St John the Baptist stands behind in the river. He wears the typical fur robe and is identified by his considerably darker skin. St John has scooped up a bowl of water from the Jordan and pours it over Christ's head. The Holy Ghost, who has been sent by God the Father from an auriole framed by clouds, hovers over Christ in the shape of a dove. A large number of angels with trombones enliven the clear sky.
The deceased (1566) Duke Wolfgang of Anhalt, to whom this epitaph is dedicated, kneels in the left corner close to the edge of the painting and opposite the baptism scene. He wears a splendid fur-trimmed coat over a black robe as well as a triple chained gold necklace with a portrait medallion bearing an inscription. His grey beard is cut straight across beneath the chin.
Isolated figurative groups have gathered on different islands in the background landscape. Between Wolfgang and the Baptist male representatives of the Anhalt family are visible, in the first row Wolfgang's cousin Georg III., Johann IV. and Joachim I., the sons of Johann IV appear to be represented behind to the left. Joachim Ernst of Anhalt can be identified in the centre, possibly flanked by his brothers Karl and Bernhard VII.
Behind the baptism scene in the middle-ground is a large group of reformers and scholars, in the front Luther and Melanchthon. Johann Forster can also be identified in this group.
Finally in the background women and children are depicted who probably represent members of the Anhalt house and their more distant relatives. A veduta is visible on the horizon, which appears to be a representation of Wittenberg.
[Görres, cda 2015]
- St. Bartholomäus 'an der Südseite im Chorraum' (on the south side of the choir) (earliest record in BKD Anhalt 1892)
- now on the north side of the choir, St Bartholomäus
[Wulf 2016: Ze01]
Sources / Publications:
Reference on PageCatalogue NumberFigure/Plate
Wulf 2016147ff., 258, 310
Slenczka 2015 A
Rhein 201548
Wolf 2015169, 170
Meys 2009823f.
Lenz 2008
Schulze 2004166-168p. 168
Findeisen 2001171-186
Dehio 1999936
Specht 1998288
Drescher 1983280
Schade 197496, 390
Schade 1968 B71
Schade 1956107
Wiemann 190768ff.
Büttner Pfänner zu Thal 1892441f.
Interpretation / History / Discussion:
The epitaph painting has always been in St Bartholomew’s, Parish Church of Zerbst, which served both as collegiate church and court chapel and it is where in 1565 Wolfgang of Anhalt had his tomb erected. As stated in the inscription on the epitaph he was buried a year later in the choir and his heirs Joachim Ernst and Bernhard of Anhalt commissioned the epitaph painting. According to the inscription it was hung close to the tomb, later its position was changed many times and it now hangs on the north wall of the choir.
During the transition to Calvinism numerous painted panels were removed from the Church of St Bartholomew, but not Wolfgang’s epitaph. Admittedly representations of him were largely rejected, which culminated in 1662 with the superintendent’s urgent demand to have the ‚nackende Baderbild‘(image of naked bathers) removed from the church (Wiemann 1907, 68), nevertheless it remained in the church. Only the painted panel has survived from the original epitaph. The inscription was recorded by Wiemann (Wiemann 1907, 69f.). Thanks to a photograph take in 1927 the original presentation is also recorded: a wooden frame with sixteen elements showing proof of ancestry, and beneath the panel with the inscription, now lost. […]
The inclusion of the Lutheran theologian makes clear reference to the Wittenberg reformation, and is reinforced by the vedute showing Wittenberg, indicating the origin of the new faith. Wolfgang of Anhalt encouraged reformation thought in Zerbst at an early stage, between 1522 and 1524. He was committed early on to the reformation, signing the Confessio Augustana in 1529 at the Reichstag in Speyer and he was one of the founding members of the Schmalkaldic League. As early as 1526 he was affiliated to the Protestant Union in Gotha and in the same year he establish the reformation in Bernburg, before all other parts of Anhalt under his rule followed.
[Wulf 2016, Ze01]
Material / Technique:
  • Date: 03. 2015
  • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
  • Infrared reflectography
  • Lucas Cranach the Younger - Evangelische Kirchengemeinde St. Bartholomäi, Zerbst - Epitah painting for Wolfgang of Anhalt: Baptism of Christ - Infrared ImagesLucas Cranach the Younger - Evangelische Kirchengemeinde St. Bartholomäi, Zerbst - Epitah painting for Wolfgang of Anhalt: Baptism of Christ - Infrared Images
  • 8.03 Underdrawing

    - dry drawing material (dark chalk)

    - very detailed and freehand underdrawing over a grid
    - fine lines

    - relatively binding for the final painted version; lines delineate the main contours and define essential details and facial features; no representation of volume with hatching-strokes

    - minor alterations made during the painting process to clearly define form


    - Lucas Cranach the Younger

    - transferred from a pre-existing design with the assistance of a grid

    [Sandner, Smith-Contini, Heydenreich, cda 2015]
    • photographed by: Gunnar Heydenreich
    • photographed by: Ingo Sandner
    • Date: 03. 2015
    • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
    • 8.05 Framing
    • - original frame with a depth of 23 cm
      - the left and right frame members are each decorated with eight carved coats-of-arms, the top and bottom members are decorated with painted cartouches flanked by arabesques imitating marble insets
      [cda 2015]
      • examined by: Gunnar Heydenreich
      Condition Reports:
      • Date: 1825
      • 1825 exstensively overpainted [Specht 1998, 288]
        History of Restoration:
        • Date: 1949 - 1952
        • attached to a new wooden support
          [Schade 1974, 390]
          Conservation treatment and transferred to a plywood board by Otto Stollberg and Georg Brinz [Findeisen 2001, 185]
        • conservation treatment by: Institut für Denkmalpflege, Halle
        • Date: 1853
        • 1853 'renewed by the court painter Beck " [Wiemann 1907, 70]