The Judgement of Paris

The Judgement of Paris

Title

The Judgement of Paris

[Cat. New York 2013, 54, No. 11]

Painting on beech wood

Medium

Painting on beech wood

[Cat. New York 2013, 54, No. 11]
[Klein, Report 2006]

Among the most popular mythological scenes produced by Lucas Cranach the Elder and his workshop were those featuring Venus and, in particular, the Judgment of Paris.[1] This legend relates how the goddess of discord Eris, peeved at not having been invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, attended unannounced

Among the most popular mythological scenes produced by Lucas Cranach the Elder and his workshop were those featuring Venus and, in particular, the Judgment of Paris.[1] This legend relates how the goddess of discord Eris, peeved at not having been invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, attended unannounced and threw her golden apple, inscribed 'to the fairest' into the midst of the guests. Juno, Venus, and Minerva all claimed ownership of the prize, and Jupiter decreed that their dispute could be settled only by Paris, son of the king of Troy. After Mercury brought the goddesses to the Trojan prince, each offered him a bribe: Juno, power; Minerva, all human knowledge; and Venus, the love of Helen of Troy, wife of the Spartan king, Menelaus, and the world's most beautiful woman. Paris chose Venus and embarked for Sparta to abduct Helen and bring her to Troy, thus instigating the Trojan War. [...]

In the Museum's painting, Paris has dismounted his horse and fallen asleep beneath a tree. Mercury nudges him awake with his staff, and Paris, in a sleepy stupor, observes the three beauties before him. He wears a full suit of knightly armor in the style of 1520 - 1525, including a lance rest; his sword is by his side and he holds a decoratively embellished gold war hammer. His long coat and puffed, slashed sleeves reflect contemporary courtly fashion; his huge beret with ostrich feather pom-poms, a type worn by high-ranking military commanders, perhaps was introduced here to appeal to the patron.[2] Mercury's costume, including the breastplate with oak leaf decoration, the fringed red skirt beneath, and the extraordinary hat showing two birds ravenously eating seeds from a pod,

is pure fantasy.[3] The apple he holds appears to be formed of rock crystal. The three goddesses are only very slightly differentiated, perhaps to emphasize the difficulty of Paris's decision.[4] Which is Juno and which Minerva is unclear,[5] but the center figure must be Venus. It is she who is the most suggestively alluring, with her broad-brimmed, feather-adorned red hat and strategically placed diaphanous veil that accentuates all the more her otherwise naked state. It is also she who points to Cupid, who in turn prepares to shoot his arrow at her. The walled-in city in the background being approached by a large ship is presumably Troy, and the leaf less, dead branches on the tree directly above the figures may signal the destruction to come.

[1] Some nineteenth-century scholars thought the subject of this painting was the Anglo-Saxon legend of the knight Albonack presenting his daughters to King Alfred III of Mercia. For this legend, see M. Rosenberg 1930, pp. 91-96. R. Förster (1899, pp. 265; 73, pl. 10) refuted this interpretation for the Museum's painting.

[2] My thanks to Dirk H. Breiding, Assistant Curator, Department of Arms and Armor, MMA, for discussing with me the details of the armor worn by Paris and Mercury.

[3]Inge El-Himoud-Sperlich (1977, pp. 54-55) claimed that Mercury wears the fantastic clothing of a herald in contemporary theater; it has been noted (in Metropolitan Museum 1987, p. 109) that Mercury's dress is 'appropriate to the Nordic messenger god Wotan [sic].'

[4] Bodo Brinkmann noted this in relation to the Kimbell Art Museum version (Brinkmann in Frankfurt and London 2007/2008, p. 326, no. 101).

[5] R. Förster (1899, p. 272) claimed that the goddess at the left is Juno, because she appears 'somewhat more mature and restrained than the others' while the one at the right is Minerva, who chastely turns away from the viewer. Biedermann also identified the goddess with the hat as Venus in the closely related drawing in Braunschweig (fig. 49; Biedermann 1981, p. 312, fig. 7).

[Cat. New York 2013, 54, 55, 286, No. 11]

Attributions
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Lucas Cranach the Elder and workshop

Attributions

Lucas Cranach the Elder

[Cat. New York 2013, 54, No. 11]
[Friedländer, Rosenberg 1979, No. 254]

Lucas Cranach the Elder and workshop

[Woermann, Exhib. Cat. Dresden 1899, 78-79, No. 121]

Hans Cranach

[Friedländer 1899, 246]
[Flechsig 1900, 282, No. 121]

Production date
about 1528

Production date

about 1528

[Cat. New York 2013, 54, No. 11]

Dimensions
Dimensions of support: 100.9 × 70.5 × .8 cm (39 11/16 × 27 3/4 × 5/16 in.)

Dimensions

  • Dimensions of support: 100.9 × 70.5 × .8 cm (39 11/16 × 27 3/4 × 5/16 in.)

  • 101.6 × 71.8 cm (40 × 28 1/4 in.) (with added strips)

  • [Cat. New York 2013, 54, No. 11]

Signature / Dating
Artist's insignia at the right foreground, on rock beneath leftmost goddess: [fragmentary winged serpent mark]

Signature / Dating

  • Artist's insignia at the right foreground, on rock beneath leftmost goddess: [fragmentary winged serpent mark]

  • [Cat. New York 2013, 54, No. 11]

Inscriptions and Labels
None

Inscriptions and Labels

Stamps, Seals, Labels:

  • None
Owner
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Repository
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Location
New York
CDA ID
US_MMANY_28-221
FR (1978) Nr.
FR254
Persistent Link
https://lucascranach.org/en/US_MMANY_28-221/

Provenance

  • Freiherr von Lüttwitz, Lüttwitzhof, Scinawka Srednia / Mittelsteine, County Klodzko / Glatz, Silesia (until 1889/90)
  • sale, Lepke's, Berlin, 1889/90)
  • Freiherr Konrad von Falkenhausen, Schloss Wallisfurth, Wolany /Wallisfurth, County Klodzko / Glatz (d. 1898)
  • Fräulein E. Hubrich, Wroclaw / Breslau (by 1899 - 1900)
  • [Georg Voss, Berlin]
  • Marczell von Nemes, Munich (by 1922; on loan to Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, 1922 - 24; his sale, Frederik Muller, Amsterdam, November 13 - 14, 1928, no. 51
  • sold to MMA, Rogers Fund

[Cat. New York 2013, 54, No. 11]

Exhibitions

  • Dresden 1899, no. 121
  • Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont, 1937 (no catalogue)
  • New York 1949; New York 1952 - 53, no. 102, ill.
  • New York 1956, suppl., no. 196
  • New York 1970 - 71, no. 233

Literature

Reference on page Catalogue Number Figure/Plate
Cat. New York 2013 54-58 No. 11
AuthorMaryan W. Ainsworth, Joshua P. Waterman
TitleGerman Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1350 - 1600
Place of PublicationNew York
Year of Publication2013
Foucart-Walter 2011 16 Fig. 30
AuthorElisabeth Foucart-Walter
EditorLouvre, Departement des Peintures
TitleLucas Cranach l'Ancien. 'Les Trois Graces'
Place of PublicationParis
Year of Publication2011
Cat. Kansas City 2005 85, 88 Fig. 4e
AuthorBurton L. Dubar, Molly Faries
TitleThe Collections of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. German and Netherlandish Paintings 1450-1600
Place of PublicationKansas City
Year of Publication2005
Cat. New York 1998 52, 54, Fn. 25
AuthorCharles Sterling, Maryan W. Ainsworth, Charles Talbot, Martha Wolff, Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, Jonathan Brown, John Hayes
TitleThe Robert Lehman Collection. Fifteenth to eighteenth century European Painting: France, Central Europe, The Netherlands, Italy and Great Britain
Volume2
Place of PublicationNew York
Year of Publication1998
Stepanov 1997 Fig. 133
AuthorAlexander Stepanov
TitleLucas Cranach the Elder 1472-1553. Translated from the Russian by Paul Williams
Place of PublicationBournmouth
Year of Publication1997
Damisch 1996 174 Fig. 44
AuthorHubert Damisch
TitleThe Judgement of Paris Translated by John Goodman
Place of PublicationChicago
Year of Publication1996
Matsche 1996 50, Fn. 82, p. 66, Fn. 153, 154, p. 67, Fn. 160, p. 68, Fn. 164 Fig. 9
AuthorFranz Matsche
TitleHumanistische Ethik am Beispiel der mythologischen Darstellungen von Lucas Cranach
Publicationin Winfried Eberhard, Alfred A. Strnad, eds., Humanismus und Renaissance in Ostmitteleuropa vor der Reformation
SeriesForschung zu Quellen zur Kirchen- und Kulturgeschichte Ostdeutschlands
Volume28
Place of PublicationCologne
Year of Publication1996
Pages29-70
Cat. New York 1995 220 Fig.
AuthorKatharine Baetjer
TitleEuropean Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born before 1865. A Summary Catalogue
Place of PublicationNew York
Year of Publication1995
Damisch 1992 Fig. p. 134
AuthorHubert Damisch
TitleLe Jugement de Paris
SeriesIdées et recherché. Iconologie analytique
Volume1
Place of PublicationParis
Year of Publication1992
Warner 1990 23 Fig. 4
AuthorPatricia Campbell Warner
TitleFetters of Gold. The Jewelry of Renaisance Saxony in the Portraits of Cranach the Elder
JournalDress
Issue16
Year of Publication1990
Pages16-27
Cat. New York 1987 15, 109 Plate 75
AuthorJames Snyder
EditorThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
TitleThe Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Renaissance in the North
Volume5
Place of PublicationNew York
Year of Publication1987
Link resources.metmuseum.org/resources/metpublications/pdf/The_Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art_Vol_5_The_Renaissance_in_the_North.pdf
Nickel 1982 Figs. 1, 2 (detail)
AuthorHelmut Nickel
TitleThe Judgement of Paris by Lucas Cranach the Elder: Nature, Allegory, and Alchemy
JournalMetropolitan Museum Journal
Issue16
Year of Publication1982
Pages117-129
Silver 1982 35 Fig. 15
AuthorLarry A. Silver
TitleEarly Northern European Paintings
JournalThe Saint Louis Art Museum Bulletin
Issue16/3
Year of Publication1982
Pages34-37
Biedermann 1981 312-313 Fig. 7
AuthorGottfried Biedermann
TitleDie "Paris-Urteile" Lukas Cranachs d. Ä.
JournalPantheon
Issue39
Year of Publication1981
Pages310-313
Cat. New York 1980 36 (Vol. 1) Fig. p. 296 (Vol. 2)
AuthorKatharine Baetjer
EditorThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
TitleEuropean paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Volume1-3
Place of PublicationNew York
Year of Publication1980
Hibbard 1980 260-261, 262 No. 470 Fig.
AuthorHoward Hibbard
TitleThe Metropolitan Museum of Art
Place of PublicationNew York
Year of Publication1980
Friedländer, Rosenberg 1979 No. 254
AuthorMax J. Friedländer, Jakob Rosenberg
EditorG. Schwartz
TitleDie Gemälde von Lucas Cranach
Place of PublicationBasel, Boston, Stuttgart
Year of Publication1979
Himoud-Sperlich 1977 37-38, 45-46, 55-56, 59, 61-62, 75, 102, 163 Fig. 43
AuthorInge El- Himoud-Sperlich
TitleDas Urteil des Paris. Studien zur Bildtradition des Themas im 16. Jh.
Place of PublicationMunich
Year of Publication1977
Nikulin 1976 18
AuthorNikolai Nikulin
TitleLucas Cranach. Grosse Meister der Malerei.
Place of PublicationLeningrad
Year of Publication1976
Exhib. Cat. Basel 1974/1976 160 (Bd. 1), 767, Fn. 131 (Bd. 2)
AuthorDieter Koepplin, Tilman Falk
TitleLukas Cranach. Gemälde, Zeichnungen und Druckgraphik
Volume1, 2
Place of PublicationBasel, Stuttgart
Year of Publication1974
Link http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:bsz:16-diglit-104522
Colombier 1966 189
AuthorPierre du Colombier
TitleReview of Lucas Cranach der Ältere, by Friedrich Thöne
JournalGazette des Beaux-Arts
Issue6th ser., 67(March 1966)
Year of Publication1966
Pages189
Thöne 1965 6 Fig. p. 79
AuthorFriedrich Thöne
TitleLucas Cranach der Ältere
SeriesDie blauen Bücher
Place of PublicationKönigstein i. Taunus
Year of Publication1965
Werner 1964 28, 43 No. 15 Fig.
AuthorAlfred Werner
TitleGerman Painting. The Old Masters
Place of PublicationNew York
Year of Publication1964
Rosenberg 1960 23 under No. 46
AuthorJakob Rosenberg
TitleDie Zeichnungen Lucas Cranachs d.Ä.
Place of PublicationBerlin
Year of Publication1960
Brion 1959 54
AuthorMarcel Brion
TitleGerman Painting Translated by W. J. Strachan
Place of PublicationNew York
Year of Publication1959
Jahn 1953 A 72
AuthorJohannes Jahn
TitleDer Weg des Künstlers
Publicationin Heinz Lüdecke, ed., Lucas Cranach d. Ä. im Spiegel seiner Zeit. Aus Urkunden, Chroniken, Briefen, Reden und Gedichten
Place of PublicationBerlin
Year of Publication1953
Pages17-81
Rodney 1952 63-64 Fig. p. 61
AuthorNanette B. Rodney
TitleThe Judgement of Paris by Lucas Cranach the Elder
JournalBulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts
Issue11, No. 2 (October 1952)
Year of Publication1952
Pages57-67
Rouchés 1951 Plate 42
AuthorGabriel Rouches
TitleCranach l'ancien 1472-1553
Place of PublicationParis
Year of Publication1951
von Bothmer 1949 212 Fig. 213
AuthorDietrich von Bothmer
TitleThe Classical Contribution to Western Civilization
JournalBulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts
Issuen.s., 7, no. 8 (April 1949)
Year of Publication1949
Pages205-219
Cat. New York 1947 200-202 Fig.
AuthorMargaretta Salinger, Harry B. Wehle
EditorThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
TitleThe Metropolitan Museum of Art. A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings
Place of PublicationNew York
Year of Publication1947
Posse 1943 32, 61 No. 86 Fig.
AuthorHans Posse
TitleLucas Cranach d. Ä.
Place of PublicationVienna
IssueSecond edition
Year of Publication1943
Posse 1942
AuthorHans Posse
TitleLucas Cranach d. Ä.
Place of PublicationVienna
Year of Publication1942
Exhib. Cat. Cambridge, Mass. 1936 38 098
AuthorCharles L. Kuhn
EditorGermanic Museum, Cambridge, Mass.
TitleCatalogue of the Germanic Museum exhibition of German paintings of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Lent from American collections
Place of PublicationCambridge Mass.
Year of Publication1936
Friedländer, Rosenberg 1932 68 209
AuthorMax J. Friedländer, Jakob Rosenberg
TitleDie Gemälde von Lucas Cranach
Place of PublicationBerlin
Year of Publication1932
Link http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/friedlaender1932
Rogers 1932 30
AuthorMeyric R. Rogers
TitleThe Judgement of Paris by Lucas Cranach the Elder
JournalBulletin of the City Art Museum of Saint Louis
IssueVol. 17/3
Year of Publication1932
Pages30-32
Cat. New York 1931 75
AuthorBryson Burroughs
TitleCatalogue of Paintings. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Place of PublicationNew York
Year of Publication1931
McMahon 1929 14
AuthorA. Philip McMahon
TitlePrints. Selected Masterpieces at the Metropolitan Museum
JournalParnassus
IssueI, No. 3, March 15
Year of Publication1929
Pages12-15
Metropolitan Museum 1929 19 cover ill.
Authorn. a.
TitleRecent Museum Acquisitions
JournalParnassus
IssueI, No. 3 (March 15)
Year of Publication1929
Pages10, 18-19
Wehle 1929/1930 86, 88 Fig. p. 87
AuthorHarry B. Wehle
TitleA Judgement of Paris by Lucas Cranach
JournalMetropolitan Museum Studies
Issue2
Year of Publication1929
Pages1-12
Auct. Cat. Amsterdam 1928 18 51 Fig.
EditorFrederik Muller & Cie, Amsterdam
TitleTableaux, tapisseries, émaux de Limoges, miniatures sur velin, bronzes, orfevrerie. Sale cat. [collection of Marczell de Nemes.] [Amsterdam, Frederik Muller et Cie, November 13-14, 1928]
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
Year of Publication1928
Mayer 1928 452 Fig. p. 448
AuthorAugust Liebmann Mayer
TitleZur Auktion Nemes. I. Die Gemälde
JournalPantheon
Issue2
Year of Publication1928
Pages446-452
Cat. Nuremberg 1922 56
EditorGermanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg
TitleWegweiser durch die Sammlungen des Germanischen Museums im Neubau am Kornmarkt
Place of PublicationNuremberg
Year of Publication1922
Ameseder 1910 70
AuthorRudolf Ameseder
TitleEin Parisurteil Lukas Cranachs d. Ä. in der Landesgalerie zu Graz
JournalRepertorium für Kunstwissenschaft
Issue33
Year of Publication1910
Link http://archiv.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/artdok/volltexte/2014/2607
Pages65-84
Flechsig 1900 A 282 No. 121
AuthorEduard Flechsig
TitleCranachstudien
Volume1
Place of PublicationLeipzig
Year of Publication1900
Link page/n5/mode/2up
Förster 1898/1899 267-273 Plate 10
AuthorRichard Förster
TitleNeue Cranachs in Schlesien
JournalSchlesiens Vorzeit in Bild und Schrift. Zeitschrift des Vereins für das Museum Schlesischer Altertümer
Issue1 F. 7
Year of Publication1899
Pages265-274
Friedländer 1899 246
AuthorMax J. Friedländer
TitleDie Cranach-Ausstellung in Dresden
JournalRepertorium für Kunstwissenschaft
Issue22
Year of Publication1899
Pages236-249

Description/ Interpretation/ Comments

In the mid-twelfth century, the French poet Benôit de Saint-Maure wrote the Roman de Troie (Romance of Troy), which was based on the purportedly eyewitness account of the destruction of the city by Dares Phrygius, a Trojan priest of Hephaestus.[1] Another well-known and widely disseminated romance was Guido delle Colonne’s late thirteenth-century Historia Destructionis Troiae (History of the Destruction of Troy).[2] Cranach must have known either Dares’s account[3] or the medieval romances,[4] for his Judgment of Paris follows two distinctive features of their texts: Paris as a hunter, not a shepherd as in other ancient sources,[5] and Paris’s encounter with Mercury and the three goddesses in a dream. Guido’s text also provides other specific details adopted by Cranach: the setting in the “loneliest part of these groves” of Mount Ida, the horse tied near a tree, and the proviso that the goddesses present themselves naked so that Paris might “consider the individual qualities of their bodies for a true judgment.”[6]

Cranach’s depiction of the theme was also influenced by early prints. An engraving of about 1460 by the Master of the Banderoles shows the three naked goddesses, modestly covering themselves with diaphanous veils, and Mercury attempting to awaken a slumbering Paris in a lush wooded landscape (fig. 47).[7] A woodcut illustration of the scene in the 1502 Wittenberg edition of Dares Phrygius’s Bellum Troianum (Trojan War)[8] also provided a visual precedent for Cranach’s first image on the theme, a signed and dated woodcut of 1508 in which the goddesses have just disrobed (fig. 48). For the contrasting front and back poses of two of them, the artist was inspired by Jacopo de’ Barbari’s Victory and Fame, an engraving of 1498 – 1500 that circulated in Nuremberg, where de’ Barbari went in 1500 to work for Emperor Maximilian I.[9] Cranach’s woodcut in turn served as the model for at least a dozen painted versions by himself and his workshop, beginning with the artist’s panel of about 1510 (Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth) and including the present work, a considerably later adaptation of about 1528. […]

A free sketch of the composition, dated by most scholars between 1527 and 1530 (fig. 49),[10] probably served as a preliminary idea for the Museum’s painting and other close variants,[11] none of which follow the initial design exactly but simply rearrange its landscape and figural motifs. Although the three goddesses have sometimes been thought to be portraits of women at the Saxon court, [12] their faces appear too generalized for such an assertion.

Instead, they are likely based on oil sketches such as the Study of Three Female Heads of about 1530 (fig. 50), which Cranach produced for use in a number of his paintings, making slight adjustments to the facial features in each work to give the impression of different individuals.[13]

The remnants of Cranach’s insignia, a winged serpent, appear below the feet of the leftmost goddess, but Richard Förster failed to notice them when he stated in 1899 that the painting was neither signed nor dated.[14] The same year, Karl Woermann listed it among unauthenticated works by Cranach and his workshop,[15] and Max J. Friedländer deemed it a middling, perhaps autograph work. Others, including Eduard Flechsig, assigned it to Cranach’s son Hans.[16]

After the painting was exhibited in Nuremberg in 1922 – 24 and came up for auction in 1928, Friedländer viewed it more positively as a genuine and accomplished work.[17] As a result, the Metropolitan Museum acquired the painting, and Harry Wehle published the first substantial study of the picture since Förster’s initial article.[18] Wehle convincingly argued for a date around 1528, comparing the work favorably with the version of that date in the Kunstmuseum Basel.[19] Confusion developed when Friedländer and Jakob Rosenberg (later followed by Charles Kuhn and Hans Posse) wrote that the painting is signed and dated 1529, an error corrected in the second edition of their monograph.[20] More recently, Burton Dunbar noted that the poses and attitudes of the goddesses here served as a source for the figures in The Three Graces (Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City), which is dated 1535.[21] He argued that the goddess pointing upward in that work must derive from the earlier Metropolitan’s Venus, since without Cupid above there is no iconographic reason for this gesture.

One of the most intriguing questions concerning Cranach’s Judgment of Paris is its deeper meaning in the context of its own time. The theme was popular with German humanists,[22] and Franz Matsche has argued for a humanist understanding of Paris’s dilemma in the vein of the philosophy of life of Conrad Celtis and his followers.[23] This concerned the difficult choice of which type of life to lead: the vita contemplativa, the vita activa, or the vita voluptaria. Although the contemplative life was the most highly regarded, its arduousness was acknowledged, as was the fact that knowledge is achieved primarily through making errors.

Hanne Kolind Poulsen viewed Matsche’s interpretation in the light of Protestantism, arguing that the Christian’s difficulty in choosing a way of life, in finding salvation, ultimately depends on divine grace.[24] This dilemma was the subject of the commencement speech given by the Greek scholar Nicolaus Marschalk to the first graduating class of the University of Wittenberg in 1503.[25] Railing against Paris’s misguided judgment, Marschalk urged students to be wary of Venus’s power and of women in general and instead to follow Minerva, who “offers thrift, a sense of shame, modesty, chastity, [and] industry . . . the stepping stones to the attainment of learning, of wisdom and the remaining virtues, and of the highest happiness.”[26] Just one year after Marschalk’s oration, a student of his at Wittenberg, Hermann Trebelius, published a warning against Venus’s power in a preface to a poem on the Judgment of Paris by the Neapolitan humanist Johannes Baptista Cantalicius.[27] The rather crude woodcut illustrating this publication was an important antecedent to Cranach’s first woodcut of the subject in 1508. Seen in this context, Cranach’s woodcut and his paintings on the theme would have an admonitory function, warning against the wiles of woman, a subject further developed in contemporary Weibermacht (power of women) images, such as Cranach’s Samson and Delilah (cat. 12). Dieter Koepplin argued that Marschalk’s moralizing interpretation, based on the writings of Fulgentius, would have been the source for Cranach’s realization of the story.[28]

A challenge to the humanist interpretation was offered by Berthold Hinz.[29] Hinz argued that, for such an interpretation to be valid, the goddesses would have to be clearly identifiable in order to link them with the alternative ways of life, a precondition that does not apply to Cranach’s depiction. Instead, Hinz regarded the similarity of the goddesses as an attempt to “provoke a play of ideas and meanings”[30] — and perhaps to introduce an element of ambiguity and the possibility of multiple interpretations — which has little to do with the rigorous humanism found in images by contemporary artists such as Dürer and Burgkmair.[31]

The Judgment of Paris theme may also be understood in a social-historical rather than philosophical context. Inge El-Himoud-Sperlich has interpreted Cranach’s Paris paintings as decorations for bedroom chambers, noting that he is documented as having painted such a scene for the bridal chamber of Margareta von Anhalt, who married Duke Johann of Saxony in 1513. El-Himoud-Sperlich suggested that these works were meant not as warnings to men against making wrong decisions, as Koepplin theorized, but instead as confirmations for women that their husbands had renounced what advantages might be gained by marrying a smarter (Minerva) or wealthier (Juno) mate, instead choosing for love and beauty (Venus).[32]

Koepplin, in a more recent revisiting of the Judgment of Paris theme, examined a few troubling issues, namely, Cupid’s pointing his arrow at Venus instead of at Paris and the nearly indistinguishable appearance of the goddesses. Regarding the former, Koepplin claimed that the positioning of Cupid emphasizes the power of the goddess instead of the weakness of Paris and that the informed viewer would realize that his arrow ultimately reaches Paris.[33] As for the sameness of the goddesses, Koepplin noted that, althougha moralizing message is certainly present, their resemblance serves Cranach’s desire to introduce new possibilities of meaning, such as the positive aspects of Venus’s power if the painting were to be used as a marriage picture.[34]

Equally interesting but also controversial was Helmut Nickel’s interpretation of the Museum’s Judgment of Paris as alchemical in meaning.[35] Nickel understood the painting as representing the three stages of the so-called Great Work, that is, the conversion of base material into gold, and the three goddesses as personifications of the stages. His extremely meticulous argument has yet to be supported or refuted by other scholars on the basis of subsequent discussions of alchemy.

Clearly, there is a rich array of possible meanings for the Judgment of Paris theme. Its popularity, evidenced by the significant number of surviving examples, perhaps attests to multivalent interpretations in Cranach’s own time.

[1] Frazer 1966. For a survey of the transformations of this story in art, see M. Rosenberg 1930. See also R. Förster 1899, pp. 267 – 69.

[2] See Colonne 1936 (ed.); Colonne 1970 (ed.); Colonne 1974 (ed.).

[3] Perhaps from the 1502 Wittenberg edition of Dares the Phrygian’s Bellum Troianum.

[4] R. Förster 1899, pp. 267 – 69.

[5] Lucian’s telling of the tale, for example, has Paris as a shepherd. See Lucian 1921(ed.), p. 393.

[6] Colonne 1974 (ed.), p. 60.

[7] Lehrs 1908 – 34, vol. 4 (1921), nos. 90, 91. For another engraving of The Judgment of Paris by the Master of the Banderoles, see Dieter Koepplin in Basel 1974, vol. 2, pp. 624 – 25.

[8] Koepplin attributed this print to an anonymous Erfurt or Wittenberg artist and discussed it as the basis for Cranach’s 1508 woodcut. See Koepplin in Basel 1974, vol. 1, p. 211, vol. 2, pp. 622 – 24, no. 528a, ill. vol. 1, p. 213, fig. 116.

[9] Ferrari 2006, pp. 120 – 21, no. 9. See also Bierende 2002, pp. 209 – 12.

[10] J. Rosenberg 1960, p. 23, no. 46; Thöne 1965, ill. pp. 78 – 79; du Colombier 1966; Dieter Koepplin in Basel 1974, vol. 2, p. 494, no. 345; Biedermann 1981, p. 312 (who dates the drawing earlier, to about 1525). Michael Hof bauer (2010, pp. 384 – 85, no. 189) attributed the drawing to Cranach the Younger.

[11] Other variants include the following: listed by Friedländer and J. Rosenberg 1978, now Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, ca. 1512 – 14 (no. 41); Seattle Art Museum, ca. 1516 – 18 (no. 118); Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, dated 1527 (no. 252); Kunstmuseum Basel, dated 1528 (no. 253); Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, dated

1530 (no. 255); Anhaltische Gemäldegalerie Dessau (lost in 1945), ca. 1535 (no. 256); Steiermärkisches Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz, ca. 1530 – 35 (no. 257); Saint Louis Art Museum, ca. 1537 (no. 258); Schloss Museum Gotha, after 1537 (no. 409); Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Hampton Court Palace, after 1537

(no. 409a); Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, after 1537 (no. 409a); Museum zu Allerheiligen, Schaffhausen (not in Friedländer and J. Rosenberg 1978).

[12] El-Himoud-Sperlich 1977, pp. 56, 63.

[13] This drawing is most closely related to a painting of the Three Graces formerly in an English private collection (Friedländer and J. Rosenberg 1978, p. 119, no. 251A); see Brinkmann in Frankfurt and London 2007 – 8, p. 292, no. 85. See also Hof bauer 2010, pp. 168 – 69, no. 52.

[14] R. Förster 1899, p. 267. Förster may not have seen these because of overlying restoration.

[15] Woermann in Dresden 1899, pp. 78 – 79, no. 121.

[16] Friedländer 1899, p. 246; Flechsig 1900, p. 282, no. 121.

[17] Friedländer, cable to the Metropolitan Museum, October 24, 1928 (curatorial files, Department of European Paintings, MMA).

[18] Wehle 1929 – 30.

[19] Ibid., p. 9; repeated by Wehle and Salinger 1947, p. 201.

[20] Friedländer and J. Rosenberg 1932, p. 68, no. 209; Kuhn 1936, p. 38, no. 98; Posse 1943, p. 61, no. 86; Friedländer and J. Rosenberg 1978, p. 120, no. 254.

[21] Dunbar 2005, p. 85.

[22] Koepplin in Basel 1974, vol. 2, pp. 613 – 31.

[23] Matsche 1996, pp. 59 – 67.

[24] Poulsen 2003, p. 140. This interpretation lacks the support of texts about the Paris myth written by sixteenth-century theologians.

[25] Marschalk 1503/1967, p. 37.

[26] Ibid., p. 41; see also Koepplin in Basel 1974, vol. 2, p. 616.

[27] See Koepplin in Basel 1974, vol. 1, p. 211, vol. 2, pp. 622 – 24, no. 528a. The accompanying woodcut also appeared in an edition of Dares the Phrygian’s Bellum Troianum published in Wittenberg in 1502 (see Bierende 2002, pp. 205 – 6; see also discussion and note 13 above).

[28] See Fabius Planciades Fulgentius, Mitologiarus libri tres (in Fulgentius 1898 [ed.], pp. 3 – 80), for his moralizing, allegorical interpretation of the Paris myth; Koepplin in Basel 1974, vol. 2, p. 622. For a different theory, based on the Ficinian notion of the difficulty of moral decision-making and the necessity of making errors, see Matsche 1994; Matsche 1996.

[29] Hinz 1994, p. 179; see also Hinz 2005.

[30] Hinz 1994, pp. 177 – 78.

[31] Bierende (2002, p. 384, n. 84) rejects Hinz’s point of view.

[32] El-Himoud-Sperlich 1977, pp. 72 – 73. In support of her theory, El-Himoud-Sperlich argued that Cupid in the Museum’s painting is aiming his arrow at the leftmost goddess, whom she identified as Venus (although clearly Cupid aims at the center goddess, who is more likely Venus). She thus regards Venus’s apparent covering of her pudenda from Paris’s view as a sign of chaste courtship.

[33] Koepplin 2003b, p. 52.

[34] Ibid., p. 54.

[35] Nickel (Helmut) 1981, pp. 123 – 27, 129.

[Ainsworth, Cat. New York 2013, 54-58, 286, No. 11]

  • The Judgement of Paris, about 1528

Images

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Technical studies

26.06.2013 - Scientific analysis

  • Identification of wood species / Dendrochronology

Support

Wood identification and dendrochronological analysis by Peter Klein, Universität Hamburg (report, April 27, 2006, curatorial files, Department of European Paintings, MMA). The skewed joints reflect an efficient use of flat-cut boards that taper at one end because of narrowing of the tree trunk; the boards are cut in two lengthwise, and one section is inverted to form a roughly complementary angle.

Klein indicated an earliest felling date of 1525; the earliest possible fabrication date, based on the manufacturing methods of beech panels, is 1526.

[Cat. New York 2013, 286, Fn. 1, No. 11]

2013Technical examination / Scientific analysis

  • Identification of wood species / Dendrochronology
  • Infrared reflectography
  • Stereomicroscopy
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Support

The beech panel support is made of four vertically oriented boards with skewed joints. Dendrochronological analysis indicated an earliest possible fabrication date of 1526. [1]

The X-radiograph shows a small amount of tow, applied with no apparent correlation to the construction of the support.

[1] Wood identification and dendrochronological analysis by Peter Klein, Universität Hamburg (report, April 27, 2006, curatorial files, Department of European Paintings, MMA). The skewed joints reflect an efficient use of flat-cut boards that taper at one end because of narrowing of the tree trunk; the boards are cut in two lengthwise, and one section is inverted to form a roughly complementary angle.

Klein indicated an earliest felling date of 1525; the earliest possible fabrication date, based on the manufacturing methods of beech panels, is 1526.

Underdrawing

Infrared reflectography [1] revealed linear contours drawn with a brush. The horse’s raised leg was drawn lower and further forward and the painted dead branches deviate slightly from the underdrawing. The underdrawn lines in the legs of the goddesses were intended to remain visible through the paint film to depict veins below the surface of the skin.[2]

[1] IRR carried out with configuration C; see p. 276.

[2] Heydenreich 2007b, p. 107.

Paint Layers and Gilding

The better-preserved passages in the red garments, including the feather hat worn by the middle goddess, Paris’s hat and robe, and Mercury’s red skirt fringe, display the typical, systematic technique characteristic of other paintings attributed to Cranach: an underpainting of dense black is followed by bright, opaque red, which is finished with transparent red-lake glazes. A gray underpaint was used for the greenery of the landscape. Other hallmarks of Cranach’s technique include hair worked up from a nearly flat orange-brown, finished with delicate whorls of yellow, orange, and brown brushstrokes.

Painted “countercurls” can be seen in the hair of two of the goddesses, a mannerism associated with the finest paintings produced by Cranach and his workshop.[1]

[1] Verbal communication, Gunnar Heydenreich, July 2011.

Framing

Not original

[Cat. New York 2013, 54, 286, No. 11]

07. 2011Technical examination / Scientific analysis

  • X-radiography
  • x_radiograph
  • created by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

27.04.2006Scientific analysis

  • Identification of wood species / Dendrochronology

Support

Identification of wood species: beech wood

Youngest annual ring: 1525

[Klein Report, 27.04.2006]

  • analysed by Peter Klein

02. 2005Technical examination / Scientific analysis

  • Infrared reflectography
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DESCRIPTION (evaluation on the basis of details)

Tools/Material:

- dark fluid medium, brush

Type/Ductus:

- relatively economic and freehand underdrawing

- thin to somewhat broader lines

Function:

- relatively binding for the final painted version (where visible); the lines delineate the main contours and define some forms therein; no representation of volume with hatching strokes

Deviations:

- minor corrections were made during the painting process; some changes (e. g. the horse’s front leg)

INTERPRETATION

Attribution:

- Lucas Cranach der Ältere or workshop (?)

[Sandner, Smith-Contini, Heydenreich, cda 2017]

  • photographed by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Condition Reports

Date2013

  • reverse

The panel has been trimmed to the original image area, thinned to 8 centimeter, and cradled. A wood strip approximately 21 centimeters long and 1.8 centimeters wide has been inserted along the top left edge. Strips of wood were added to the left,

right, and bottom edges. [...]

The numerous losses and repairs in the upper third of the painting are due to chronic blistering of the paint layers. This blistering and abrasion from harsh cleaning have disrupted the delicate modeling of the goddesses' flesh, Mercury's legs and hands, and Paris's face. The veil draped across the middle goddess is damaged.

[Cat. New York 2013, 54, No. 11]

Citing from the Cranach Digital Archive

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