Portrait of Martin Luther on his Death-bed

Portrait of Martin Luther on his Death-bed


Portrait of Martin Luther on his Death-bed

[Cat. Karlsruhe 1966, 94]

Painting on oak wood


Painting on oak wood

[Klein, Report 1992]

beech wood

[Cat. Karlsruhe 1966, 90]

A half-length portrait of the deceased Martin Luther. He wears a white ruffled shroud, his eyes are closed, his head has sunk into the white pillow, which fills the rest of the image.

[Görres, cda 2012]

Follower of Lucas Cranach the Elder
Workshop Lucas Cranach the Elder


Follower of Lucas Cranach the Elder

[Jacob-Friesen, Exhib.-Cat. Bremen 2009, 21]

Workshop Lucas Cranach the Elder

[Cat. Karlsruhe 1966, 94]

Production date
about 1600

Production date

about 1600

[Jacob-Friesen, Exhib. Cat. Bremen 2009, 21]

Dimensions of support: 47 x 32.5 cm


  • Dimensions of support: 47 x 32.5 cm

  • [Cat. Karlsruhe 1966, 94]

Signature / Dating


Inscriptions and Labels
  • on the top edge in black letters: 'D.M.L. NAT 1483, 10 NO: OBIIT, 1546,
    18 FEB'
    [abbreviation after …

Inscriptions and Labels

Inscriptions, Badges:

    • on the top edge in black letters:
  • 'D.M.L. NAT 1483, 10 NO: OBIIT, 1546,

  • 18 FEB'

  • [abbreviation after 'NAT']

  • [Görres, CDA 2012]

Stamps, Seals, Labels:

  • Reverse of the panel on the cradle: - bottom left:

  • printed yellow label with a black boarder and typewritten additions:

  • 'Staatl. Kunsthalle Karlsruhe

  • CRANACH-Nachahmer 'Luther Totenbett' [typewritten]

  • Inv. Nr. 121 [number typewritten]

  • Eingetragen

  • Geprüft'

  • [Görres, cda 2012]

Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe
Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe
FR (1978) Nr.
Persistent Link


  • 1842 acquired by Archduke Leopold of Baden from the art dealer Liesching in Stuttgart
  • acquired by the Karlsruher Kunsthalle in 1853 with the private collection of Archduke Leopold
    [Cat. Karlsruhe 1966, 94]


Bremen 2009


Reference on page Catalogue Number Figure / Plate
Exhib. Cat. Eisenach 2015 133 60 Fig. p. 133
EditorGünter Schuchardt
TitleCranach, Luther und die Bildnisse. Katalog zur Sonderausstellung auf der Wartburg, 2. April bis 19. Juli 2015
Place of PublicationRegensburg
Year of Publication2015
Exhib. Cat. Bremen 2009 21
EditorRainer Stamm
TitleLucas Cranach der Schnellste
Place of PublicationBremen
Year of Publication2009
Klein 1994 A 196 Tab. 3
AuthorPeter Klein
TitleLucas Cranach und seine Werkstatt. Holzarten und dendrochronologische Analyse
Publicationin Claus Grimm, Johannes Erichsen, Evamaria Brockhoff, eds.,Lucas Cranach. Ein Maler-Unternehmer aus Franken, Exhib. Cat. Kronach 1994
SeriesVeröffentlichungen zur bayerischen Geschichte und Kultur
Place of PublicationAugsburg, Coburg
Year of Publication1994
Klein 1994 B 215
AuthorPeter Klein
TitleHolzartenbestimmung und dendrochronologische Analyse an Gemäldetafeln von Lucas Cranach d.Ä. und seiner Werkstatt
PublicationAllmuth Schuttwolf, ed., Gotteswort und Menschenbild. Werke von Cranach und seinen Zeitgenossen, Exhib. Cat. Gotha
Place of PublicationGotha
Year of Publication1994
Cat. Karlsruhe 1966 94
AuthorJan Lauts
TitleStaatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe. Katalog Alter Meister bis 1800
Volume1, 2
Place of PublicationKarlsruhe
Year of Publication1966
Dieck 1962
AuthorAlfred Dieck
TitleCranachs Gemälde des toten Luther in Hannover und das Problem der Luther-Totenbilder
JournalNiederdeutsche Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte
Year of Publication1962
Gumbel 1936 163
TitleDeutsche Kultur vom Zeitalter der Mystik bis zur Gegenreformation
SeriesHandbuch der Kulturgeschichte
Place of PublicationPotsdam
Year of Publication1936
Holst 1930 36, 50f., 77 pl. XII b
AuthorNiels von Holst
TitleDie deutsche Bildnismalerei zur Zeit des Manierismus
SeriesStudien zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte
Place of PublicationStrasbourg
Year of Publication1930
Stuhlfauth 1927 27, 42ff. figs. 14, 18-20
AuthorGeorg Stuhlfauth
TitleDie Bildnisse D. Martin Luthers im Tode
SeriesKunstgeschichtliche Forschungen zur Reformationsgeschichte
Place of PublicationWeimar
Year of Publication1927
Parthey 1863-1864 696 328
AuthorGustav Parthey
TitleDeutscher Bildersaal. Verzeichnis der in Deutschland vorhandenen Oelbilder verstorbener Maler aller Schulen
Volume1, 2
Place of PublicationBerlin
Year of Publication1864
Viardot 1864 141
AuthorLouis Viardot
TitleLe Musée de Carlsruhe
JournalGazette des Beaux-Arts
Year of Publication1864

Research History / Discussion

'Repetition of a painting, that was executed by an unknown artist from Eisleben the morning after the night in which Martin Luther died 'die weil er noch im Stüblin auff dem Bett gelegen' (because he still lay on his bed in his chamber). A further portrait by Lukas Furtenagel from Halle of Luther's countenance, 'da er schon eine Nacht im Sarch gelegen' (after he had already lain a night in the coffin)[Stuhlfauth 1927, 27, 42ff. Fig. 14, 18-20]

The first painting mentioned appears to have become the property of the Cranach workshop and has been repeated more frequently'

[Cat. Karlsruhe 1966, 94]

Portrait of Martin Luther on his Death-bed

Since the proclamation of his 95 theses in 1517, the Leipzig disputation in 1519 and the publication of three reformation manifestos Martin Luther has become both a well known and controversial figure in Germany and beyond. Interest arose in his views, and also in his character, his personal circumstances and his appearance. Lucas Cranach the Elder and his workshop satisfied the desire for representations of Luther. He created portraits employing a variety of techniques: engravings, woodcuts and a number of oil paintings, which were repeated employing an innovative method of serial production. It was thanks to Cranach that Luther became one of the most frequently portrayed men of his time. The motivation came from the political intent of the Saxon electors and the business sense of the artist, who was personally closely linked to Luther. The image of the Reformer was disseminated, simplified, idealized or negatively distorted through copies by other artists.[1]

In Cranach’s portraits Luther is shown as a forceful and unfaltering monk, as a scholar with a mortar board, as ‚Junker Jörg‘ with a beard, as a husband with his wife Katharina of Bora and - together with Melanchton – as an unwavering confessor and theological authority, as a church father of the strengthening protestant confession. The image of the deceased is also part of the Luther iconography: the reformer died at the age of 62 on the morning of the 18th of February 1546 in Eisleben, where he had gone to settle the inheritance dispute between the two Mansfeld counts Gebhard and Albrecht. Literary sources record that he was portrayed by both a local artist and the artist Lucas Furtenagel, who was quickly brought from Halle.[2] It may be assumed that one of the brush drawings depicting the deceased, now in Berlin and probably that by Furtenagel, was acquired by Lucas Cranach in Wittenberg. On the basis of this he created the painting in the Niedersächsischen Landesmuseum Hannover, which became a prototype for numerous copies. [3] Copies were made as if from an icon and in turn these were copied. The version from Karlsruhe shown in the exhibition belongs to a number of the fourteen known versions, which are not from the Cranach workshop and it is probably not even contemporary. [4] Comparison with the version in Hannover shows that the lower arms and hands are omitted, but that the rendition of face of the deceased is very accurate. It is determined by a mild, peaceful expression. This was important, because opposers of the Reformation had prophesied an agonising death for the heretic, who was supposedly allied with the devil. In their eyewitness account of Luther’s death, which was published in great hast, Justus Jonas and Michael Coelius emphasize: „Und kond niemands mercken (das zeugen wir fur Gott auff unser gewissen) einige unruge, quelung des leibes oder schmertzen des todes, sondern entschlieff friedlich und sanfft im Herrn, wie Simeon singet.“ (and nobody could notice (this we swear so help us God) any restless, swelling of the body or the pain of death, but rather he passed away peacefully and softy with God, as sung by Simeon [5] Cranach’s painting and the subsequent copies are the pictorial confirmation. The white, finely pleated shirt, in which the deceased was clothed, serves to underline the impression of a clear conscience.

Holger Jacob-Friesen

[1] see Martin Warnke: Cranachs Luther. Entwürfe für ein Image, Frankfurt a. M. 1984.

[2] for the context see: Alfred Dieck: Cranachs Gemälde des toten Luther in Hannover und das Problem der Luther-Totenbilder, in: Niederdeutsche Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte Bd. 2 (1962), 191-218.

[3] Exhib. Cat. Cranach der Ältere, Frankfurt a. M. 2007, no. 42. The catalogue entry contests quite correctly the asumption made by Dieck, that only the painting recorded in literary sources by the artist from Eisleben served as a prototype for Cranach.

[4] Dieck dates the painting – however not very convincingly – very late, namely during the ‚Enlightenment‘ (18th century): Dieck 1962 (as Fn. 2), 202.

[5] Justus Jonas und Michael Coelius: Bericht vom christlichen Abschied aus diesem tödlichen Leben des ehrwürdigen Herrn D. Martini Lutheri (publ. in Wittenberg, March 1546), cited: D. Martin Luthers Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe, vol. 54, Weimar 1928, p. 492.

  • Portrait of Martin Luther on his Death-bed, about 1600


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Technical studies

07. 2011Technical examination / Scientific analysis

  • Infrared reflectography
  • irr


- an underdrawing is not visible

[Smith, Sandner, Heydenreich, cda 2012]

  • photographed by Gunnar Heydenreich
  • photographed by Ingo Sandner

2009Scientific analysis

  • Identification of wood species / Dendrochronology


'Results: the youngest annual ring is dated 1578, therefore the panel cannot have been painted before 1597'

[Exhib. Cat. Bremen 2009, 21]

Comment: this must be a printing error [cda 2012]

06.10.1992Scientific analysis

  • Identification of wood species / Dendrochronology


  • analysed by Peter Klein

Citing from the Cranach Digital Archive

Entry with author
<author's name>, 'Portrait of Martin Luther on his Death-bed', <title of document, data entry or image>. [<Date of document or image>], in: Cranach Digital Archive, https://lucascranach.org/en/DE_SKK_0121/ (Accessed {{dateAccessed}})
Entry with no author
'Portrait of Martin Luther on his Death-bed', <title of document, data entry or image>. [<Date of document, entry or image>], in: Cranach Digital Archive, https://lucascranach.org/en/DE_SKK_0121/ (Accessed {{dateAccessed}})

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