Cranach - The Martyrdom of St Catherine
The Martyrdom of St Catherine
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Ráday Library of the Reformed Church, Budapest
06.12.2021 - 13:01
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CDA ID / Inventory NumberHU_HCBC
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FR (1978) No.FR011
The Martyrdom of St Catherine[cda 2011]
Lucas Cranach the Elder [Fenyö 1955]
'Unbekannter Meister'
[Takács 1909, 453]
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about 1508[Heydenreich 2007 A, 65]
[Grimm 1998, 69]
[Grimm 1994, 35, 299]
about 1508/1509[Messling , Exhib. Cat. Brussels 2010, 118]
[Koepplin, Exhib. Cat. Basel 1974, Bd. II, 552-53]
about 1505[Brinkmann, Exhib. Cat. Frankfurt 2007, 1932]
[Friedländer, Rosenberg 1978, 68, No. 11]
about 1506-1509[Schade 1974, 37]
about 1504[Fenyö 1955, 68-71]
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Owner / Repository / Location:
OwnerRáday Library of the Reformed Church, Budapest
RepositoryRáday Library of the Reformed Church, Budapest
Dimensions of support: 112 x 95 x 1.6 cm (original size of panel)
[Heydenreich, cda 2011]
Painting on lime wood (Tilia sp.)
[Heydenreich, cda 2011]
Signature / Date:
St Catherine is a legendary figure, the beautiful, educated and incalculably rich king's daughter from Alexandria. According to the legend, she suffered martyrdom under Emperor Maxentius (c. 278-312), after arguing with 50 heathen philosophers and converting them to her Christian beliefs. She condemned to be broken on the wheel, but an angel of the Lord destroyed the wheel and killed 4,000 of the heathen who had gathered to watch, whereupon the guard and the wife of the emperor became Christians. Finally Maxentius ordered the beheading of Catherine.
- 1791acquired by Count Ráday in Leipzig from the art dealer Thiele
[Koepplin, Exhib. Cat. Basel 1974, Bd. II, 552]
Kronach 1994, No. 120a
Frankfurt, London 2007/08
Brussels, Paris 2010/11
Sources / Publications:
Reference on PageCatalogue NumberFigure/Plate
Exhib. Cat. Paris 2011118-119
Exhib. Cat. Brussels 2010118-11920
Exhib. Cat. Madrid 2007/2008361
Heydenreich 2007 A63, 65, 67, 68, 80, 86, 99, 101, 102, 105, 108, 112, 113, 119, 122, 161, 174, 182, 189, 205, 216, 298, 316, 317, 323
Exhib. Cat. Frankfurt 2007132-13311p. 133
Exhib. Cat. Prague 200554 (English version 25)under no. 5
Heydenreich 1998 A188-189, 193, 196Figs. 21.6, 21.7, 21.11, 21.12, 21.18
Exhib. Cat. Eisenach 1998114-117No. 13.3Figs. 13.3, 13.3a-c
Sandner 1998 B87, 89, 91, 92
Grimm 199869-73Figs. 9.2, 9.5, 9.8
Grimm 199431, 35Fig. A19
Schade, Schuttwolf 199418
Schade 1994 B13
Exhib. Cat. Kronach 1994299-301, 371120aFig. 120a
Exhib. Cat. Berlin 198377
Friedländer, Rosenberg 197968No. 11Fig. 11
Strieder 1975170
Exhib. Cat. Basel 197489, 552-553, 743No. 414Pl. 5
Schade 197437
Végh 1972Fig. 23
Perger 196676, Fn. 22
Stange 1964138
Fenyö 195568-71
Takács 1909453
Interpretation / History / Discussion:
“However, it seems that this borrowing was mainly one-sided and Durer barely responded to the challenge,127 whereas Cranach pursued the artistic competition even while he was court painter in Wittenberg. Durer painted the Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand Christians for the Saxon Elector Friedrich III between 1507 and 1508.128 Cranach finished the Budapest Martyrdom of St Catherine (fig. 40)129 of approximately the same size and proportion at about the same time. It probably relates to a further meeting of both artists. As the features of the wooden support for the Martyrdom of St Catherine differ noticeably
from those of other Wittenberg works (see p. 65), it seems likely that the panel was produced outside the workshop, perhaps even in Nuremberg.130 This assertion is supported by the observation that Cranach probably used motifs of the Heller Altarpiece, which were being produced at the same time
in Durer ’s workshop (1507/09).131 In addition, Cranach gave this work special attention in terms of composition and technical execution. The preliminary design on the panel appears to have been drawn in a concentrated way and with shadows partially deepened by hatching (fig. 87). This is reminiscent of Durer ’s urge for precision.132 Subsequently, Cranach applied the reddish imprimatura .133 In the course of the painting process, the composition was corrected again; the colour, plasticity as well as the materiality were modeled with an extra ordinary sensibility. Some passages of paint were accentuated in a graphic way with a pointed brush, which again reveals a direct relation to Dürer’ s meticulous painting (figs 273, 278).”

[Heydenreich 2007 A, 318]
'The panel in Budapest was first identified by Fenyö 1955 as an early major work by Cranach and ranks with its confident underdrawing and both assured and careful jewel-like rendering among the highest quality panels by Cranach, in which workshop participation is unlikely. The date of the painting however remains controversial. Fenyö and most recently Brinkmann suggest 1504/05, during the initial period of Cranach's activity at the Wittenberg court, whereas Koepplin and Grimm advocate a date about 1508/09, directly before or after his journey to the Netherlands. The relationship of the panel to the 'Martyrdom of St Catharine' from 1506 in Dresden (FR 014, Fig. 78), which depicts the subject less dramatically and more flat, is frequently addressed within this context. Not only the soft manner of blending paint in the vegetation and the accomplished spatial setting of the central group of the henchmen and the saints, for which the jumble of falling men serves as a backdrop suggest a creation date after this painting; but also the affinity of the two central figures to the woodcut from about 1508/09 depicting 'The Beheading of St John the Baptist' (No. 67) points in this direction.
Furthermore it is remarkable that the underdrawing of the henchman is even closer to the figure of his colleague in the woodcut. In addition to the printed graphic prototypes by Dürer and the Monogrammist MZ (Nos. 18 and 19) shown here, Cranach may, as suggested by Grimm, also have known the depiction of the martyr on the inner side of the right wing of Dürer’s Heller-Altar, created in Nuremberg between 1507 and 1509. Cranach was in the free imperial city (freie Recihsstadt) in January and July of 1508 from where he set off to the Netherlands. Of interest in this respect is Heydenreich’s observation that the construction of the panel differs from those created in Wittenberg during these years, so the painting could have been created on a journey. Unfortunately the origin of this important painting is unknown before 1791, when it was acquired in Leipzig as a work by Dürer.’

[Messling , Exhib. Cat. Brussels 2010, 118-119]
Material / Technique:
  • Date: 2011
  • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
  • Lucas Cranach the Elder - Ráday Library of the Reformed Church, Budapest - The Martyrdom of St Catherine - Detail ImagesLucas Cranach the Elder - Ráday Library of the Reformed Church, Budapest - The Martyrdom of St Catherine - Detail Images
  • 8.01 Support
  • - four planks, widths between 19.5 and 26 cm, top from left to right: 24/24.8/24.7/21.5 cm, bottom from left to right: 25.8/19.5/24/26 cm
    - the planks are butt joined and glued, the edge of the panel is straight
    - there are no visible damages in the wood
    - the joins are covered on the front of the panel with strips of canvas (width 3.5-5 cm; thread count 15 x 15 threads/cm)
    - the reverse of the panel has been carefully smoothed (original), a brown coating may be later
    - a groove running around the edge of the panel is marked with incised lines; it was probably used to hold the panel in a frame (and may be of a later date)
    - three dovetailed cross-battens on the reverse are probably not original, but may correspond to the lost originals
  • 8.02 Ground and Imprimatura
  • - white ground, probably a glue-chalk mixture, a relatively thin application
    - the barbe along the edge of the ground is intact on all four sides
    - imprimatura: a pink admixture (lead white, red lead), stripy application over the entire surface, partially visible on the surface
    - a black painted band runs around the edge
  • 8.03 Underdrawing
  • 8.04 Paint Layers and Gilding
  • - gilding: various garments were gilded during the painting process – beforehand they were worked up extensively in paint
  • 8.05 Framing
  • - new frame: rebate frame, black
    • written by: Gunnar Heydenreich
    • Date: 10. 2010
    • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
    • Infrared reflectography
    • Lucas Cranach the Elder - Ráday Library of the Reformed Church, Budapest - The Martyrdom of St Catherine - Infrared Images
    • 8.03 Underdrawing

      - fluid, black medium and brush

      - freehand underdrawing
      - thin to relatively broad lines; occasional hatching-strokes

      - only partially binding for the final painted version; lines delineate contours and describe the essential details and the facial features; some representation of volume (hatching-strokes)

      - alterations made during the painting process to clearly define form; changes (e.g. position of the henchman)


      - Lucas Cranach the Elder

      [Smith, Sandner, Heydenreich, cda 2012]
      • photographed by: Ingo Sandner
      • photographed by: Gunnar Heydenreich
      • Date: 2007
      • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
      • 8.01 Support
      • 'The support consists of four broad lime wood boards in a vertical arrangement. The planks are almost twice as thick as usual (1.6 cm).
        On the front the joins are completely covered with canvas strips (fi gs 44, 45). Three dovetailed cross-battens on the back are probably original.114 Such techniques of stabilising the joins are rare on Cranach’s painting supports.115 There are also other differences compared to later practices, which will be considered further on. There is little doubt that this painting support came from a different professional panel maker . The cost for transporting supports was relatively high compared to those of production.116 Was this support made at a place where Cranach stopped during his travels, perhaps even in
        Nuremberg?117 The methods used are found on various Nuremberg supports of the same period.118'

        [Heydenreich 2007 A, 65]
      • 8.02 Ground and Imprimatura
      • 'On the panel depicting the Martyrdom of St Catherine (c.1508, ffig. 40), the black line on the upper and lower border ends with the barb, leaving some bare wood visible on the edge of the panel. The black paint covers the wood left and right
        as far as the edge.52 A painting by Rembrandt , produced some 100 years later, may aid an understanding of this phenomenon (fig. 75). The Artist in His Studio53 shows a large panel standing on an easel. Grooved battens were temporarily attached to the upper and lower edge in order to stabilise the panel. It could thus be moved safely within the workshop. This assumes that there were similar pieces of squared wood as interim devices to exert a stabilising force used in the Cranach workshop during the early Wittenberg years. It is conceivable that they formed part of the temporary frame used during grounding when the aqueous medium might cause the panel to distort.54 It remains to be investigated whether they also served to hold the boards during joining.'
        [Heydenreich 2007 A, 86]
      • 8.04 Paint Layers and Gilding
      • 'In X-radiographs of the Budapest Martyrdom of St Catherine (c.1508), changes in the choice of material, for example, gold leaf instead of a robe painted yellow, are revealed. The brocade robe of the falling prince, including the drawing of the pattern, was completed first with paint before being covered with
        gold leaf and a new pattern (ifi gs 183, 184). To what an extent this alteration is a result of the artist reviewing the work from an aesthetic point of view or the commissioner expressing certain wishes cannot as yet be ascertained.'

        [Heydenreich 2007 A, 216]
          • Date: 1998
          • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
          • Infrared reflectography
          • 8.03 Underdrawing
          • “Kopf und Oberkörper des Landsknechtes sind stark verändert. Der Henker war stärker nach rechts gebeugt. Durch die Zurücksetzung des Kopfes strafft sich der einst leicht gebeugte linke Arm, und der zum Schwert greifende rechte Arm erhält mehr Raum für den erwarteten tödlichen Schlag. Die Absicht einer erhöhten Dramatik war wohl der Grund für die genannten Veränderungen der Komposition.“
            [Sandner 1998, 115]

            „Kopf der Katharina: Neben der lockeren Linienführung des Umfeldes überrascht die konzentrierte, genaue Zeichnung mit zwar sparsamer aber verbindlicher Ausbildung der Details. Im Brustbereich sind sogar einige Schraffuren angelegt.“

            [Sandner 1998, 116]

            „Kopf des Landsknechtes: Der Kopf wurde in der Malerei deutlich nach links versetzt. Das Ohr der Unterzeichnung sitzt unter dem rechten Auge“

            [Sandner 1998, 117]
              • Date: 09.03.1994
              • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
              • X-radiography
              • Lucas Cranach the Elder - Ráday Library of the Reformed Church, Budapest - The Martyrdom of St Catherine - X-RadiographsLucas Cranach the Elder - Ráday Library of the Reformed Church, Budapest - The Martyrdom of St Catherine - X-RadiographsLucas Cranach the Elder - Ráday Library of the Reformed Church, Budapest - The Martyrdom of St Catherine - X-RadiographsLucas Cranach the Elder - Ráday Library of the Reformed Church, Budapest - The Martyrdom of St Catherine - X-Radiographs
              • 8.07
              • 20kV, 6mA, 2,20 min, 4 Films
                • photographed by: Pröll
                • Date: 1994
                • Technical examination / Scientific analysis
                • Micro-sampling / cross-sections
                • Instrumental material analysis
                • 8.07
                • Analyse of cross-sections; Incident light microscopy; UV fluorescence; EDX:

                  Probenliste Heydenreich [136]
                  Cross-section No.: EP 053

                  Brief description of paint: violet robe on black underpainting
                  Sample location: Fold in St Katharine’s robe, violett on black
                  Sample No.: 054
                  Incident light microscopy: yes
                  Incident light microscopy, photograph: yes
                  UV fluorescence: yes
                  UV fluorescence, photograph: yes
                  EDX: yes
                  EDX photograph: no

                  5. varnish
                  4. red lake pigment and glassy, white amorphous lumps, in UV weak orange-red fluorescence
                  EDX: Pb!, Al!, traces of Ca, and K, indicating a red lake on a substrate containing aluminium
                  3. brown-black layer, large black and fine red pigment particles, in UV particles with a yellowish fluorescence are also visible, the red particles do not exhibit any characteristic fluorescence
                  EDX: red pigment Fe!, Si!, indicating a red iron oxide rich in silicon, the matrix also contains Ca, Cu, Ti – the black underpainting consists of black with the addition of iron oxide and a small amount of chalk? And a copper containing pigment (sicative)?
                  2. orange-pink layer, orange-red and white pigments, with a strong yellow fluorescence in UV and red pigments, with an orange fluorescence; light red imprimitura, which has run into an air-bubble in the chalk ground
                  1. traces of a black underdrawing; not detected with EDX
                  0. white ground

                  Commentary: The underdrawing is partially visible here. Pink imprimitura. Aubergine coloured robe with black underpainting (with the addition of red) and modulated with a red lake glaze

                  Probenliste Heydenreich [138]
                  Cross-section No.: EP 055
                  Brief description of paint: red piece of cloth on the trousers
                  Sample location: thief, thin strip of cloth beneath the hand on the left
                  Sample No.: 057
                  Incident light microscopy: yes
                  Incident light microscopy, photograph: yes
                  UV fluorescence: yes
                  UV fluorescence, photograph: yes
                  SEM/EDX: yes
                  SEM/EDX photograph: no

                  3. red layer, vermillion pigment particles, blood red in UV, no further layer visible
                  2. white layer, light grey-white trousers,
                  EDX: Pb and traces of Ca, underpainting in lead white
                  1. orange-pink layer, white and orange-red pigments (orange-red in UV),
                  EDX: only Pb, imprimitura consists of lead white and red lead
                  0. white layer, becoming more transparent towards the top, ground

                  Commentary: Imprimatura (lead white and red lead) containing lead on a white ground. The trousers are underpainted with a light grey-white paint and are finished with vermilion red stripes.

                  [Heydenreich, unpublished examination report, 1994]
                  • written by: Gunnar Heydenreich
                  History of Restoration:
                  • Date: 1994
                  • Treatment:
                    - removal of varnish and old retouching/overpaint

                    (see photographs taken before and after treatment in: [Exhib. Cat. Kronach 1994, 300, 301])

                    [Heydenreich, CDA 2011]
                  • conservation treatment by: Thomas Brachert