Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon

Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon


Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon

[Messling, Exhib. Cat. Brussels 2010, 224]

Painting on beech wood


Painting on beech wood

[Klein, Report 1992]
[Cat. Karlsruhe 1966, 92]

A half-length portrait of the Reformer in three-quarter profile facing left against a blue background. Melanchthon wears the black robe of the Reformers. There is a white block with an inscription at the bottom of the panel.

[Görres, cda 2012]

Lucas Cranach the Elder
Lucas Cranach the Younger


Lucas Cranach the Elder

[Messling, Exhib. Cat. Brussels 2010, 224]
[Jacob-Friesen, Exhib. Cat. Bremen 2009, 14]

Lucas Cranach the Younger

[Cat. Karlsruhe 1966, 92]

Production date

Production date



Dimensions of support: 90 x 59 cm


  • Dimensions of support: 90 x 59 cm

  • [Cat. Karlsruhe 1966, 92]

Signature / Dating

Artist's insignia bottom right: winged serpent with dropped [!] wings and date "M D XXXVII" (within inscription)

Signature / Dating

  • Artist's insignia bottom right: winged serpent with dropped [!] wings and date "M D XXXVII" (within inscription)

Inscriptions and Labels
  • along the bottom edge on a white strip: 'EFFIGIES PHIL: MELANCHTHONIS . ANN . AET .
    XXX …

Inscriptions and Labels

Inscriptions, Badges:

    • along the bottom edge on a white strip:


  • . M . D XXXVII .'

  • [Görres, cda 2012]

Stamps, Seals, Labels:

  • 'On the reverse of the Melanchthon portrait the Baden-Saxon-Lauenburg allied coat-of-arms is stamped into red sealing wax'

  • [Jacob-Friesen, Exhib. Cat. Bremen 2009, 15]

  • In addition on the reverse of the panel: - bottom left:

  • white label with a black boarder

  • 'Staatl. Kunsthalle Karlsruhe [1]

  • CRANACH, L. d. Ä. 'Melanchthon' [2]

  • Inv. Nr. [1] 940 [2]

  • Eingetragen Geprüft [1]'

    • bottom right :
  • yellow label with a black boarder:

  • 'Fot.' [3] [over the boarder]

  • 'Badische Kunsthalle Karlsruhe inv. Nr. [1]

  • 940 Cranach-(W.). Melanchthon [3]

  • Geprüft 1937 [last figure and dot handwritten]

  • [1] printed

  • [2] typewritten

  • [3] handwritten

  • [Görres, cda 2012]

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


  • the panel was probably in the possession of the Dukes of Saxony-Lauenburg and arrived in the collection of the Margrave of Baden in 1691 after the marriage of Princess Sibylla Augusta to Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden 1691
    [Jacob-Friesen, Exhib. Cat. Bremen 2009, 15]

  • from the collection of the Margrave of Baden (Inventory from 1691)
    [Renner 1941, 62, 187][1]

  • in the 18th century in the castle of Rastatt (Inventory from 1772, fol. 227)
    [Kircher 1955, 227, 244][1]

[1][Cat. Karlsruhe 1966, 92]


Zurich 1921, No. 40
Pforzheim 1955
Rotterdam 1969
Eisenach 1996
Bremen 2009
Brussels, Paris 2010/11
Karlsruhe 2012


Reference on page Catalogue Number Figure / Plate
Zorzin 2015 11
AuthorAlejandro Zorzin
TitleEine unbeachtete Identifizierung: Das Cranach-Porträt des Justus Jonas
JournalNordhäuser Nachrichten. Südharzer Heimatblätter
Issue24/4 (1 Dec 2015)
Year of Publication2015
Exhib. Cat. Karlsruhe 2012 20
EditorAriane Mensger
TitleDéjà-vu? Die Kunst der Wiederholung von Dürer bis YouTube, [Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle]
Place of PublicationBielefeld
Year of Publication2012
Exhib. Cat. Brussels 2010 224 137 pp. 224, 249
EditorBozarbooks & Lannoo, Guido Messling
TitleDie Welt des Lucas Cranach. Ein Künstler im Zeitalter von Dürer, Tizian und Metsys [anlässlich der Ausstellung "Die Welt des Lucas Cranach", Palast der Schönen Künste, Brüssel, 20. Oktober 2010 - 23. Januar 2011]
Place of PublicationBrussels
Year of Publication2010
Exhib. Cat. Bremen 2009 14-15
EditorRainer Stamm
TitleLucas Cranach der Schnellste
Place of PublicationBremen
Year of Publication2009
Klein 1994 A 196, 198 Tabs. 4, 6
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
Schade 1974
AuthorWerner Schade
TitleDie Malerfamilie Cranach
Place of PublicationDresden
Year of Publication1974
Link http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/schade1974
Cat. Karlsruhe 1966 92
AuthorJan Lauts
TitleStaatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe. Katalog Alter Meister bis 1800
Volume1, 2
Place of PublicationKarlsruhe
Year of Publication1966
Zimmermann 1960 127ff.
AuthorWerner Zimmermann
TitleMelanchthon im Bildnis
Publicationin Georg Urban, ed., Philipp Melanchthon: 1497-1560. Gedenkschrift zum 400. Todestag des Reformators
Place of PublicationBretten
Year of Publication1960
Kircher 1955 227, 244
AuthorGerda Franziska Kircher
TitleDie Einrichtung des Rastatter Schlosses im Jahre 1772
JournalZeitschrift für die Geschichte des Oberrheins
IssueBd.103, N.F.64 (1955)
Year of Publication1955
Renner 1941 62, 187
AuthorAnna Maria Renner
TitleDie Kunstinventare der Markgrafen von Baden-Baden
Place of PublicationBühl-Baden
Year of Publication1941
Exhib. Cat. Zurich 1921 12 40
EditorW. Wartmann
TitleGemälde und Skulpturen 1430 - 1530. Schweiz und angrenzende Gebiete
Place of PublicationZurich
Year of Publication1921
Parthey 1863-1864 697 335
AuthorGustav Parthey
TitleDeutscher Bildersaal. Verzeichnis der in Deutschland vorhandenen Oelbilder verstorbener Maler aller Schulen
Volume1, 2
Place of PublicationBerlin
Year of Publication1864

Research History / Discussion

Portrait of Georg Spalatin / Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon

About 1530 the hopes of many Lutherans to establish a fundamental consensus with the Swiss Reformists on the one hand and the members of the ‚Old Church’ on the other were disappointed. In 1529 the Religious Colloquy in Marburg between Luther and Zwingli failed, in 1530 the Catholics under Emperor Charles V rejected the ‚Confessio Augustana‘, which had been conceived by Philipp Melanchthon in a conciliatory tone and had been presented by him personally in the Augsburg Reichstag. It thus became a matter of course that Lutheranism developed an independent Church. During this period Lucas Cranach painted portraits of Martin Luther’s intimate friends and colleagues. A third portrait appears to belong with the portraits shown here of Georg Spalatin and Philipp Melanchthon. The portrait of Johannes Bugenhagen, now in the Lutherhalle Wittenberg follows the same concept and is of the same size and date. [1] It is unknown whether Cranach created the works on commission, possible by a prince, as both paintings from Karlsruhe boast a princely provenance extending back to the 17th century.[2] It is also unknown whether or not further portraits belonged to the series. One may wish, at least in thought, to add the portrait of Luther.

Georg Spalatin (1484-1545) became Friedrich the Wise’s privy secretary and confessor after his law studies and ordination. He advised the elector in profane and spiritual matters. Above all he ensured that he held a protective hand over Luther, with whom Spalatin had been friends since 1515. After Friedrich’s death Spalatin became pastor in Altenburg, but he remained an important advisor to the electors. He had a long-term relationship of trust with Johann Friedrich, who came to power in 1532 and whom he had taught as a young prince. In close collaboration with Luther he re-organised the Saxon church according to Lutheran doctrine. In 1537, the year the Cranach portrait was executed, he accompanied Luther to the Schmalkalden Bundestag for Protestant States and cities. At the same time the reformation was introduced in Denmark. Here another close friend of Luther the theologist Johannes Bugenhagen (1485-1558) from Wittenberg played a decisive role.

Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560) was alongside Luther an important representative and co-founder of the new doctrine. Already publically praised by Erasmus for his erudition at the age of 18 he then became Professor of Greek at the University of Wittenberg when he was 21. His life’s work was the synthesis of Humanism and Reformation. The significant contribution he made to improve the universities and the education system helped Protestantism to attain a scholarly basis and to become an effective educational movement.

The portraits of Spalatin and Bugenhagen were probably painted by Cranach in 1537 from life or after a life-drawing; other versions of these paintings are not known. On the contrary in the case of Melanchthon he recoarsed to an older prototype, a portrait from 1532. There are more versions of this painting, usually combined with a portrait of Luther. [3] The version in Dresden bares the age 30, which was evidently adopted for the painting in Karlsruhe. In both cases it is misleading, because Melanchthon was 35 in 1532, and therefore 40 years of age in 1537. The inscription LVCA CRONACHIO PICTORE probably refers to Cranach the Elder, the head of the workshop. His son, who has the same name and was then 21 may have assisted in the execution.[4] The paint is applied very thinly. The infrared reflectogram reveals the vibrant underdrawing.[5]

The association of an image with a Latin text in capitals is a feature of Humanist portraits. Nothing indicates that the sitters portrayed here are Reformers. It was only later that Lucas Cranach the Younger and others developed the Reformer type portrait: large in format, with the Holy Scripture in a prominent position and the sitter increasingly monumental and inaccessible.[6] Both paintings from Karlsruhe evidently belong to an earlier period: Spalatin and Melanchthon are depicted without attributes and without an authoritative tone. They appear – despite their self-confidence- modest and authentic.

Holger Jacob-Friesen

[1] Max J. Friedländer/Jakob Rosenberg: Die Gemälde von Lucas Cranach, Basel, Boston, Stuttgart 1979, No. 351.

[2] They were probably in the collection of the Dukes of Saxony-Lauenburg and entered the collection of the Margrave of Baden-Baden after the marriage of Princess Sibylla Augusta to Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden in 1691. The Baden-Saxon-Lauenburg allied coat-of-arms is stamped in red sealing wax on the reverse of the portrait of Melanchthon.

[3] Friedländer/Rosenberg 1979 (as Fn. 1), No. 314-315 as well as the versions A-C; see also: Sibylle Harksen: Bildnisse Philipp Melanchthons, in: Philipp Melanchthon. Humanist, Reformator, Praeceptor Germaniae, hrsg. vom Melanchthon-Komitee der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, Berlin 1963, 270-287.

[4] for an attribution to Lucas Cranach the Younger see: Friedländer/Rosenberg 1979 (as Fn. 1), 140; Irmgard Höß: Georg Spalatin 1484-1545. Ein Leben in der Zeit des Humanismus und der Reformation, Weimar 1989, XXXVII.

[5] Photographs in the Archiv der Staatlichen Kunsthalle Karlsruhe. Results of dendrochronologial examination of the beech wood panel carried out by Peter Klein in 1981 confirm the date 1537.

[6] see: Kurt Löcher: Humanistenbildnisse – Reformatorenbildnisse. Unterschiede und Gemeinsamkeiten, in: Hartmut Boockmann u. a. (Hrsg.): Literatur, Musik und Kunst im Übergang vom Mittelalter zur Neuzeit (Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, Phil.-Hist. Klasse, 3. Folge, No. 208), Göttingen 1995, 352-390.

  • Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon, 1537


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  • overall
  • overall
  • reverse
  • irr
  • detail
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  • detail
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  • detail

Technical studies

07. 2011Technical examination / Scientific analysis

  • Infrared reflectography
  • irr




- dry drawing material, dark chalk


- delicate, fine traced lines


- binding for the final painted version; lines delineate contours and describe the facial features; no representation of volume


- hardly any alterations made during the painting process



- not possible


- probably transferred from a preparatory drawing or may even have been traced from a pre-existing design

[Smith, Sandner, Heydenreich, cda 2012]

  • photographed by Gunnar Heydenreich
  • photographed by Ingo Sandner

2011Technical Examination

  • reverse


- beech wood

- on the reverse the edges of the panel are bevelled

- original black coating

[cda 2011]

2009Scientific analysis

  • Identification of wood species / Dendrochronology


'Results: the earliest annual ring from the Spalatin panel can be dated 1530. It could not have been created before 1532. The earliest dateable annual ring from the Melanchthon panel is from 1532. the panel could not have been created before 1534, which supports the dating of 1537.'

[Exhib. Cat. Bremen 2009, 14]

12.10.1992Scientific analysis

  • Identification of wood species / Dendrochronology


Identification of wood species: beech wood

Youngest annual ring: 1532

[Klein Report, 12.10.1992]

  • analysed by Peter Klein

Citing from the Cranach Digital Archive

Entry with author
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Entry with no author
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