Martin Luther

Martin Luther

Title

Martin Luther

[http://www.baumanconservation.com/SolvingTheCranachMystery.html]

Painting on beech wood (Fagus sp.)

Medium

Painting on beech wood (Fagus sp.)

The half-length portraits of Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora portray each sitter staring at a 45º angle. Martin looks to his left while Katharina stares to her right. The bearded Luther is dressed in black as Junker Jörg with his right hand on the pommel of a sword. Along

The half-length portraits of Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora portray each sitter staring at a 45º angle. Martin looks to his left while Katharina stares to her right. The bearded Luther is dressed in black as Junker Jörg with his right hand on the pommel of a sword. Along the bottom of the painting, his cropped left hand is positioned just below the sword's cross-guard. The portrait is placed against a green background. It is signed and dated '1537'.

Bauman 2014, PDF

Attribution
Workshop Lucas Cranach the Elder

Attribution

Workshop Lucas Cranach the Elder

Production date
1537

Production date

1537

[dated]

Dimensions
Dimensions of support: 51 x 36 x 0.48 cm

Dimensions

Signature / Dating
Artist's insignia at the left edge, centre: winged serpent with dropped wings, facing right and dated '1537'; in black paint

Signature / Dating

  • Artist's insignia at the left edge, centre: winged serpent with dropped wings, facing right and dated '1537'; in black paint

Inscriptions and Labels
After cleaning partially illegible inscriptions were revealed at the top and bottom of the panel, furthermore it was established that …

Inscriptions and Labels

Inscriptions, Badges:

  • After cleaning partially illegible inscriptions were revealed at the top and bottom of the panel, furthermore it was established that a coat-of-arms had been scraped off at some stage in the past. For further research and discussion of these missing elements see: [Bauman 2014, PDF](https://lucascranach.org/documents/US_MMA_39-5_FR-none/10_Analysis/US_MMA_39-5_FR-none_2014_Examination-report.pdf)

Stamps, Seals, Labels:

  • Reverse of the panel: '39.5'
  • [Bauman 2014, PDF](https://lucascranach.org/documents/US_MMA_39-5_FR-none/10_Analysis/US_MMA_39-5_FR-none_2014_Examination-report.pdf)
Owner
The Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, Michigan
Repository
The Muskegon Museum of Art, Muskegon, Michigan
Location
Muskegon
CDA ID
US_MMA_39-5
FR (1978) Nr.
FR-none
Persistent Link
https://lucascranach.org/en/US_MMA_39-5/

Provenance

The museum cites previous owners of the portraits chronologically as:

  • Count Franz Vetter van der Lilie, Vienna
  • the E. and A. Silberman Galleries, New York
  • the Drey Collection, Munich
  • the Steinmeyer Collection, Berlin
  • and, again, the E. and A. Silberman Galleries, New York.
    There is no documentation to support these references. [1]

The Hackley Art Gallery, currently the Muskegon Museum of Art in Muskegon, Michigan, acquired the portraits in July of 1939 from the E. and A. Silberman Galleries, New York, New York. Dr. W. R. Valentiner, director of the Detroit Institute of Art, and former curator with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, authenticated the paintings in a telegram dated May 17, 1939. [2] [3]
On May 19, 1939, Frank Almy, the Hackley Art Gallery's director, offered David Silberman $10,000.00 plus the museum's 'Nocturne in Bruges' by Henri Le Sidaner, for the two Cranachs and a portrait of Dr. Samuel Johnson by Gilbert Stuart. This offer was accepted.

[1] Howarth, Shirley Reiff. European Painting: Muskegon Museum of Art. S.D. Warren Company. Muskegon, Michigan. 1981. p.14.
[2] Valentiner biographical information from-http://www.dictionaryofarthistorians.org/valentinerw.htm accessed 5/15/14.
[3] A telegram, dated May 18, 1939, from Dr. Paul Grummann, director of the Joslyn Memorial Building, Omaha, Nebraska, to Frank Almy claims 'authentication by Friedlander.' The authentication was also referenced in an unsigned internal Muskegon Museum of Art memo dated May 16, 1939. There is no documentation to support the authentication and there is no reference to the paintings in Friedlander's 1932 'The Paintings of Lucas Cranach'. Heinz Norden translation of Die Gemälde von Lucas Cranach. Ithaca, N.Y. Cornell University Press. 1978. p.99.
Bauman 2014, PDF

Description/ Interpretation/ Comments

  • Martin Luther, 1537

Images

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  • overall
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Technical studies

03. 2013Technical examination / Scientific analysis

  • Infrared reflectography
  • X-radiography
  • UV-light photography
  • Stereomicroscopy
  • Identification of wood species / Dendrochronology

Support

The portraits have been painted on wooden panels measuring H. 51 cm x W. 36 cm x T. 0.48 cm. The wood has been cut tangentially with the grain running vertically. Dendrochronological examination verified beechwood (Fagus sp.) as the support material. [1]

[1]Dendrochronology performed by Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, Wisconsin. Results received in a letter dated March 11, 2014.

Ground and Imprimatura

The ground has been thinly and evenly applied on both panels probably white when first applied but now slightly discolored from oil staining. The gesso appears to be calcium carbonate and is well intact. There are no areas where the ground has been used as a transitional tone, although a lighter-toned outline of thinned paint is present in the upper right corner of Katharina’s portrait. The gesso extends to the right and left edges on both panels: .63 cm at the top and bottom are ungessoed.

Paint Layers and Gilding

The thin paint layer has been smoothly applied with no areas of impasto. The paint is pellicular in nature. [1] The backgrounds have been painted using minute smooth strokes offering seamless transitions. In general, the flesh and cloth tones are slightly thicker suggesting a careful modeling of diaphanous layers. There are no areas of visible pentimenti.

During the removal of the Luther portrait’s varnish the silhouette of a scraped-out coat of arms or seal, and two lines of a missing inscription were discovered in the lower areas.

[1] Stout, George. "Classes of Simple Paint Structure." Technical Studies, vol. VI. 1938. p.231.

For further discussion see:

Bauman 2014, PDF

Condition Reports

Date03. 2013

Supports:

The portraits have been painted on wooden panels measuring H. 51 cm x W. 36 cm x T. .48 cm. The supports are stable and do not exhibit planar distortions or cracking. The wood has been cut tangentially with the grain running vertically. Each panel has been cradled with five vertical battens and five movable horizontal members. The backs show no inscriptions or markings except for the museum's accession numbers: 39.5 for the male portrait and 39.6 for the female. Dendrochronological examination verified beechwood (Fagus sp.) as the support material. [1]

Ground:

The ground has been thinly and evenly applied on both panels probably white when first applied but now slightly discolored from oil staining. The gesso appears to be calcium carbonate and is well intact. There are no areas where the ground has been used as a transitional tone, although a lighter-toned outline of thinned paint is present in the upper right corner of Katharina's portrait. The gesso extends to the right and left edges on both panels: .63 cm at the top and bottom are ungessoed.

Paint Layers:

The thin paint layer has been smoothly applied with no areas of impasto. It is generally secure, although minor weak areas and losses are present along the edges of both portraits from former frame damage. In scattered areas the ground tone is visible where the paint layer has been thinned. The paint is pellicular in nature. [2]

The backgrounds have been painted using minute smooth strokes offering seamless transitions. In general, the flesh and cloth tones are slightly thicker suggesting a careful modeling of diaphanous layers. There are no areas of visible pentimenti.

Overpaint:

An ultraviolet light examination offers clues to a painting's condition history. Organic varnishes glow a yellow-green color under such lighting. If restoration paint has been applied on top of the varnish, the area cannot glow and appears jet-black. This is referred to as 'primary fluorescence'. If a painting has been varnished more than once and the restoration work is sandwiched between the varnish layers, the ultraviolet light shows these areas as dark shadows. This is referred to as 'secondary fluorescence'. If the restoration paint is under the varnish, the surface will glow uniformly and the examination technique may offer a false positive conclusion.

The ultraviolet examination revealed secondary fluorescence within all areas of both paintings. It was most pronounced in the backgrounds and in the lower left corner of the Luther portrait. Only minor additions were evident in the flesh tones, which is not unusual since the hard lead-white pigment that predominates in these areas is less susceptible to environmental and physical damage. Museum records do not include any prior treatment documentation.

Surface Films:

The paint surfaces were coated with three distinct films. A dirt and grime film was resting on top of two organic varnish layers. Organic varnishes yellow and darken with age, thereby falsifying a painting's intended tonal relationships. Organic varnishes also serve to flatten the three-dimensional illusion of space. The portraits' overall visual qualities were severely compromised by these overlaying films.

[1] Dendrochronology performed by Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, Wisconsin. Results received in a letter dated March 11, 2014.

[1] Stout, George. 'Classes of Simple Paint Structure.' Technical Studies, vol. VI. 1938. p.231.

Bauman 2014, PDF

  • examined by Barry Bauman

Conservation History

Date25.03.2013 - 28.12.2013

Supports:

The portraits have been painted on wooden panels measuring H. 51 cm x W. 36 cm x T. .48 cm. The supports are stable and do not exhibit planar distortions or cracking. The wood has been cut tangentially with the grain running vertically. Each panel has been cradled with five vertical battens and five movable horizontal members. The backs show no inscriptions or markings except for the museum's accession numbers: 39.5 for the male portrait and 39.6 for the female. Dendrochronological examination verified beechwood (Fagus sp.) as the support material. [1]

Ground:

The ground has been thinly and evenly applied on both panels probably white when first applied but now slightly discolored from oil staining. The gesso appears to be calcium carbonate and is well intact. There are no areas where the ground has been used as a transitional tone, although a lighter-toned outline of thinned paint is present in the upper right corner of Katharina's portrait. The gesso extends to the right and left edges on both panels: .63 cm at the top and bottom are ungessoed.

Paint Layers:

The thin paint layer has been smoothly applied with no areas of impasto. It is generally secure, although minor weak areas and losses are present along the edges of both portraits from former frame damage. In scattered areas the ground tone is visible where the paint layer has been thinned. The paint is pellicular in nature. [2]

The backgrounds have been painted using minute smooth strokes offering seamless transitions. In general, the flesh and cloth tones are slightly thicker suggesting a careful modeling of diaphanous layers. There are no areas of visible pentimenti.

Overpaint:

An ultraviolet light examination offers clues to a painting's condition history. Organic varnishes glow a yellow-green color under such lighting. If restoration paint has been applied on top of the varnish, the area cannot glow and appears jet-black. This is referred to as 'primary fluorescence'. If a painting has been varnished more than once and the restoration work is sandwiched between the varnish layers, the ultraviolet light shows these areas as dark shadows. This is referred to as 'secondary fluorescence'. If the restoration paint is under the varnish, the surface will glow uniformly and the examination technique may offer a false positive conclusion.

The ultraviolet examination revealed secondary fluorescence within all areas of both paintings. It was most pronounced in the backgrounds and in the lower left corner of the Luther portrait. Only minor additions were evident in the flesh tones, which is not unusual since the hard lead-white pigment that predominates in these areas is less susceptible to environmental and physical damage. Museum records do not include any prior treatment documentation.

Surface Films:

The paint surfaces were coated with three distinct films. A dirt and grime film was resting on top of two organic varnish layers. Organic varnishes yellow and darken with age, thereby falsifying a painting's intended tonal relationships. Organic varnishes also serve to flatten the three-dimensional illusion of space. The portraits' overall visual qualities were severely compromised by these overlaying films.

[1] Dendrochronology performed by Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, Wisconsin. Results received in a letter dated March 11, 2014.

[1] Stout, George. 'Classes of Simple Paint Structure.' Technical Studies, vol. VI. 1938. p.231.

[http://www.baumanconservation.com/SolvingTheCranachMystery.html]

Consolidation

Scattered areas of weak paint were individually stabilized using a 1:10 gelatin adhesive. The liquid adhesive was applied warm using a small sable brush. This initial step allowed treatment work to continue without risk of further loss.

Cleaning

The cleaning materials for the Luther panel were identical to those used for Katharina¿s. The dirt film was removed using a pH-neutral detergent and the varnish layers were soluble in organic solvents. Washes of overpaint were encountered throughout the dark tones to mute small abrasions along the wood grain. During cleaning, an area of hardened white overpaint was revealed in the upper-right quadrant. This area required scalpel assistance for removal.

As stated in the introduction, 'whole sections of paintings may be overpainted, hiding long-forgotten original intent. Only bits and pieces of information may remain after centuries of former restoration work and damage.' This occurred during the removal of the Luther portrait's varnish and restoration work. The silhouette of a scraped-out coat of arms or seal, and two lines of a missing inscription were discovered in the lower areas.

Fully cleaning the upper sections of both paintings brought out an additional discovery of faint lettering. Only a few letters on the first line of a possible five- or six-line inscription on the Luther portrait were legible 'the letters D O C T O R A R T V S L V' but all of remaining letters, and all of the letters on Katharina's portrait, were illegible. One could reasonably infer that the Latin text on the Luther panel originally read DOCTOR MARTINVS LVTHER.

X-Rays/Infrared Photography

In order to determine a possible solution to the missing inscriptions, two further investigative procedures were undertaken: X-rays and infrared photography. X-rays allow conservators to understand certain aspects of a painting's condition history. They can detect holes, tears, under-drawings, and areas of former restoration work.

X-rays will pass through most objects but are blocked by pigments that contain heavy metals such as lead white; these areas appear white on x-ray film. Unfortunately, the X-rays produced no clarifying information relative to the former inscriptions and only the Katharina panel presented a reasonable image, although the backing cradle severely compromised its resolution. [1]

Infrared photography can be used to 'see' into the layers of a painting providing information that is not visible to the human eye such as under-drawings, variations in composition, and hard-to-read inscriptions. The technique can detect carbon-based materials such as graphite and certain black pigments.

The infrared images sharpened the known letters on the first line of the Luther inscription and revealed additional information on the second line. It was now possible to read the letters P R O P H E T [?] probably PROPHETA originally, the Latin word for prophet, and an additional S. The infrared examination of the scraped-out seal, the scraped-out lower two lines, and Katharina's upper inscription offered no clarifying information. [2]

Filling

Filling has two purposes. It prevents further damage by sealing the edges of holes, tears, and cracks. It is also used to reproduce a sympathetic surface with respect to plane and texture. Minor areas of loss on both panels were filled with gesso, a mixture of marble dust and a 1:7 gelatin adhesive.

Varnishing

A brush coat of Winsor & Newton non-yellowing varnish was applied to the paint surfaces. Varnish is applied for several reasons. First, it reinstates the richness of the paint by allowing the darks to have their proper tone. Second, it keeps dirt and air pollution off the picture surface. Third, the surface coating protects the paint layer from damage caused by abrasion, moisture, and accidental accretions. The varnish also creates an ethical buffer between the original paint layer and the retouching or inpainting. Conservators do not paint directly on the original paint surface. The work is done on top of an isolating varnish and can be removed by simply removing the underlying varnish.

Retouching

Retouching is carried out to correct visual inconsistencies caused by inherent structural problems or surface damage. Its purpose is to reduce or eliminate these inconsistencies. It is applied only to areas of loss and should never extend over the original paint. The retouching was completed using Maimeri conservation pigments. These pigments are both color- and light-fast offering confidence that the restoration areas will remain consistent over time. Also, the pigments are soluble in mineral spirits. This relatively weak solvent permits safe and easy removal without risk of injury to the paint surface. [3]

Ms. Jane Connell, director of collections and exhibitions, and senior curator, for the Muskegon Museum of Art, guided the retouching to include: leaving the abraded upper inscriptions in place for they did not detract from the paintings' overall aesthetic balance; softening the visual inconsistencies in the upper-right corner of the female portrait; and fully retouching the lower scraped-out losses on the Luther portrait for these areas were visually dominant and visually disruptive. [4]

Completion

After retouching, the application of a final, non-yellowing spray varnish completed the nine-month treatment.

[1] The portraits were x-rayed at 56 kilovolts and 3.3 milliamps for 6 milliseconds on August 18, 2013, by Ms. Tracy O'Brien and Mr. Thomas Daus from the Radiology Department at Shriners Hospital for Children in Chicago, Illinois.

[2] Infra-red examination carried out with the assistance of Mr. Joe Barabe on March 29, 2013.

[3] Filling, varnishing, and retouching purposes from Bradley, Morton C. The Treatment of Pictures. Cosmos Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1950.

[4] E-mail instructions dated November 20, 2013.

Bauman 2014, PDF

  • conservation treatment by Barry Bauman

Citing from the Cranach Digital Archive

Entry with author
<author's name>, 'Martin Luther', <title of document, data entry or image>. [<Date of document or image>], in: Cranach Digital Archive, https://lucascranach.org/en/US_MMA_39-5/ (Accessed {{dateAccessed}})
Entry with no author
'Martin Luther', <title of document, data entry or image>. [<Date of document, entry or image>], in: Cranach Digital Archive, https://lucascranach.org/en/US_MMA_39-5/ (Accessed {{dateAccessed}})

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