The Trailer

The Project

In October 2009 eight major museums in Europe and the United States began working together with the Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf and the Fachhochschule Cologne on a research project to provide access in the electronic environment to the paintings of an important protagonist of the German Renaissance: Lucas Cranach the Elder. The project is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as part of a larger initiative to develop new kinds of research tools to facilitate transmission of art historical and conservation information across institutions and international borders in order to advance scholarship and learning. The comprehensive stock of image and text provides the public with a deeper insight into the work of Lucas Cranach and will assist researchers in the future to answer questions regarding attribution and workshop organisation among other things.

The Cranach Research Project is now in its third phase (2015 – 2018). The object of this phase is to consolidate and expand the existing network, to enhance the infrastructure and increase the content, and in so doing lay the foundations for an innovative, comprehensive and collaborative source of knowledge on Lucas Cranach and his workshop, which is significantly different from the traditional model of the monographic catalogue.

The Case for the Cranach Digital Archive (cda)

One of the greatest and most versatile artists of sixteenth-century Europe, Lucas Cranach the Elder served as court painter to three successive Saxon electors for almost five decades, demonstrating extraordinary artistic creativity. He invented numerous pictorial narratives and iconographies to reflect the new age of Humanism and Protestant theology, and established one of the most efficient and productive workshops of his time. Today more than 1,500 paintings by Cranach and his workshop are known, and they represent only a small fraction of the works originally produced.

Despite the best efforts of several generations of scholars to gain a deeper understanding of his art and to catalogue his widely dispersed oeuvre of paintings, drawings and prints, Cranach still poses a considerable number of questions and challenges for future art historical research:

  • The only comprehensive research resource - the catalogue raisonné by Friedländer, Rosenberg - was last revised in 1979 and is now out of date. It lists approximately 1,000 paintings, but only 452 of them are illustrated. Reliable information about the oeuvre, let alone good photographic records of the works, many of which are housed in churches or private collections, is extremely difficult to assemble, and many works remain undocumented.
  • Although the systematic study of Cranach's materials and techniques in recent decades has generated new insights with regards to attribution, authenticity, dating, display and function, as well as changes in the appearance of his works, only a fraction of this research has actually been published. In addition a considerable amount of new material continues to be generated, much of it in digital form. However as yet there are no established mechanisms or collaborative research alternatives employing analogue technology through which it can be easily and reliably shared.
  • Cranach paintings are well represented in almost all major museums. This situation provides an ideal background for networked research. There is a highly motivated community of contributors and users in numerous museums who are interested in sharing large quantities of documentary material and in investing in the success of the cda.
  • The recent major Cranach exhibitions in Chemnitz (2006), Frankfurt/M. (2007), London (2008), Berlin (2009), Brussels (2010), Rome (2010), Paris (2011) and Munich (2011) were highly successful and attracted millions of visitors. They also raised many questions, and indicated the need for further research.
  • Recent improvements in both visible and infrared imaging technology now make it possible to capture and share high resolution images at an unprecedented level of clarity in the electronic environment: a particularly important consideration for Cranach scholarship, where comparison of micro details and close analysis of underdrawings are essential.

The Cranach Digital Archive serves three main purposes:

  • Preservation
    The Cranach Digital Archive provides an opportunity for long-term storage of documentary material from museums and private archives such as reports, X-radiographs, colour slides and digital born images. Such material, particularly in smaller museums and private archives, is in danger of being lost within a relatively short period of time.
  • Access
    The documentary material is recorded, catalogued and commented to provide most efficient access in the electronic environment. The cda serves as a platform from which all information currently housed in different institutions can be made accessible to the public.
  • Research and Dissemination
    The cda not only provides access to historical documentary material and completed research but also encourages new forms of interdisciplinary scholarly research and teaching. The project staff is actively involved in generating new documentary material, such as dendrochronological analysis and digital IR-reflectograms.

The Pilot Project Phase (2009 – 2011)

From October 2009 until September 2011 the Cranach Digital Archive aimed to establish methodologies for sharing documentation between institutions and across international borders, and to create new research tools to facilitate online study. The Cranach pilot project has built on lessons learnt from other Mellon pilot projects and tested and expanded the methodologies of these models in significant ways.

Results of the Pilot Project Phase (2009 – 2011)


In the Pilot Phase nine founding partners and another ten associate partner institutions cooperated in the organisation of the Cranach Digital Archive:
Founding Partners: Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Alte Pinakothek and Doerner Institut, Munich; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; Kunstmuseum Basel; Metropolitan Museum, New York; National Gallery, London; Gemäldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin; Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden; Prof. Dr. Dieter Koepplin, Basel; Dr. Werner Schade, Berlin; Prof. Dr. Ingo Sandner, Dresden

Partners: Anhaltische Gemälde-Galerie, Dessau; Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg; Klassik Stiftung, Weimar; Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg, Coburg; Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels; Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig; Stiftung Preußischer Schlösser und Gärten, Berlin-Brandenburg; Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen; Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein Gotha; Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest
In addition collaboration with a further 23 project contributors was initiated.


A data model and standards for data registration and exchange were being developed:

  • The collection management system (TMS) was customized for use as an interim data repository in collaboration with the Digital Art Archive Düsseldorf (d:kult).
  • A prototype application and a web interface based on open source SQL database and IIP image client-server system was developed.


  • Art historical, technical and conservation documentation as well as high-resolution photographs and technical images were compiled on more than 500 Cranach paintings (in total more than 7,000 images).
  • Within the pilot project phase the project team examined more than 300 Cranach paintings in 16 collections (Berlin, Bremen, Brussels, Coburg, Dessau, Gotha, Halle, Weimar, Wittenberg, Leipzig, Naumburg, Nuremberg, Kronach, Regensburg, Karlsruhe, Basel) employing amongst other methods: digital photography, digital microscopy and digital infrared reflectography.
  • A Cranach literature database has been produced with more than 1,600 entries linked to the objects.
  • New OSIRIS IR-reflectograms of more than 350 paintings were generated.
  • In a special study on the Lucretia paintings more than 60 versions were documented.
  • In January 2012 the cda provided Internet access to data assets on 400 paintings (in German and English) and c.5,000 images (including more than 300 infrared reflectograms and 130 x-radiographs).

The Second Project Phase (2012 – 2015)

The goal of the second project phase was to expand the existing network, to develop the shared infrastructure and to considerably increase the content of the archive in order to achieve an innovative research tool and a comprehensive research resource on Lucas Cranach. Furthermore the project sought to promote collaborative research between museums and developed a unique international and sustainable research network.
The second phase addressed two primary goals:

  • Further development of web-based collaborative research tools and workflow procedures that encouraged the sharing and dissemination of art historical, conservation and scientific information in order to advance scholarship and learning.
  • Compilation and generation of art historical, technical, and conservation documentation related to more than 1,000 paintings by Lucas Cranach and his workshop to expand the resource and increase understanding of his art. The project also aimed to include written documents from the account books of the Saxonian Court by Lucas Cranach the Elder in order to develop a timeline based on a wider spectrum of primary sources.

Results of the Second Project Phase (2012 – June 2015)


Since 2012 the cda team has established collaboration and exchange with a further 140 institutions (museums, research institutions and church communities). In total the cda presented documentation and research results from more than 183 institutions in 24 countries that were generated by hundreds of scholars and are continuously being expanded.


Development and improvement of workflow procedures and of the various thesauri based filter and search functionalities (in German and English), image comparison, a search history, a personal gallery and many more functionalities such as for example visualization of relationships between objects with thumbnail images


The cda provides free online-access to art historical, technical and conservation information on 1,300 paintings including:

  • more than 12,200 high resolution images
  • more than 850 pdf documents
  • more than 5,000 text pages (in German and English)
  • 1,100 infrared reflectograms
  • 360 x-radiographs

The project team examined more than 930 paintings in 85 collections and documented these works amongst others with digital photography, digital microscopy and infrared reflectography (not yet all online)

Reports were generated with descriptions and interpretations of several hundred infrared reflectograms

Currently the cda provides free online-access to 345 scans of archival documents together with new transcriptions by Monika and Dieter Lücke. They give insight into the production parameters and workshop practice among other things.

The following archives were digitized in the second project phase:

  • Dieter Koepplin archive (Basel) [7,500 files – completed, partly online]
  • Max J. Friedländer archive (RKD, The Hague) [1,090 files – completed, partly online]
  • Paolo Cadorin archive (x-radiographs) [c. 60 paintings – completed, partly online]
  • Peter Klein archive [c. 300 reports – completed, mostly online]

The bibliographical data base presently lists 2,950 Cranach related publications

The Third Project Phase (2015 – 2019)

Towards a comprehensive, networked and self-sustainable research resource
The 3-year project aims to achieve three primary goals:

  • Development of a comprehensive research resource on Lucas Cranach
  • Development of an innovative, user-friendly, networked and sustainable digital repository
  • Securing the continuation of the Cranach Digital Archive as a permanent activity

To achieve these three primary goals, we will take the following five steps:

  • Ensure that almost all paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder, his sons and his workshop members are represented in the cda with approved metadata and high-resolution images. Furthermore the cda aims to publish significantly more technical information as well as conservation information on the new entries and the paintings already in the cda. In order to achieve this core aim the cda would collaborate with many more museums, archives, church communities and private collectors. The cda aims to digitize and to safeguard existing documentary material and to actively generate new documentation with current technologies.
  • Ensure that the cda will be the comprehensive resource on Lucas Cranach based on an interdisciplinary and inter-institutional collaboration of art historians, conservators, conservation scientists and historians. The cda aims at a high standard of data curation involving the advisory board and museum partners for updating. While the main focus is on the paintings the cda proposes to further enrich the content and to significantly increase the number of archival documents on Cranach (letters, invoices, payment orders et al.).
  • Ensure the continued development of innovative, user-friendly and sustainable technical applications that support access, research and long term preservation of a rich body of documentary material on Lucas Cranach. This will include enhancing the interface to make the archive an attractive resource for many users, professionals, teachers and students alike; developing a web-based data entry module for easy updating, improving comparative possibilities and the addition of further refining filters and other tools to reflect the broad interest of users.
  • Ensure further networking and communication of the resource to benefit from other resources and to attract more visitors. Therefore cda proposes to export metadata and persistent links to other portals and to link content from other important resources.
  • Establish a permanent cooperation between the Kunstpalast, Cologne University of Applied Sciences and the Deutsches Dokumentationszentrum für Kunstgeschichte – Bildarchiv Foto Marburg. While the long term preservation of all data in the Digital Art Archive Düsseldorf (d:kult) is already secured the online application of the cda will be maintained and developed further in cooperation with the Bildarchiv Foto Marburg.

Project Organisation


  • Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf
  • University of Applied Sciences, Cologne
    Prof. Dr. Gunnar Heydenreich (project director)

Founding partners

  • Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Alte Pinakothek, Munich
    Dr. Martin Schawe
  • Doerner Institut, München
    Prof. Dr. Andreas Burmester
  • J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
    Yvonne Szafran
  • Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien
    Dr. Karl Schütz
    Dr. Guido Messling
    Mag. Alice Hoppe-Harnoncourt
    Mag. Elke Oberthaler
    Mag. Monika Strolz
  • Kunstmuseum Basel
    Dr. Bodo Brinkmann
  • Metropolitan Museum, New York
    Dr. Maryan Ainsworth
  • National Gallery, London
    Dr. Susan Foister
  • Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz
    Prof. Dr. Bernd Lindemann
    Dr. Stefan Kemperdick
    Dr. Babette Hartwieg
  • Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister
    Dr. Stephan Koja
    Roland Enke
  • Prof. Dr. Dieter Koepplin, Basel
  • Prof. Dr. Ingo Sandner, Dresden
  • Dr. Werner Schade, Berlin

Associate partners

  • Anhaltische Gemälde-Galerie, Dessau
    Dr. Norbert Michels
  • Centre de recherche et de restauration des musées de France (C2RMF), Paris
    Marie Lavandier
    Michel Menu
  • Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg
    Dr. Daniel Hess
    Oliver Mack
  • Klassik Stiftung, Weimar
    Dr. Bettina Werche
    Dr. Karin Kolb
  • Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg, Coburg
    Dr. Klaus Weschenfelder
  • Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brüssel
    Dr. Veronique Bücken
  • Museo Thyssen Bornemisza, Madrid
    Mar Borobia
  • Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig
    Dr. Jan Nicolaisen
    Rüdiger Beck
  • Netherlands Institute for Art History, Den Haag
    Ursula de Goede
  • Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe
    Dr. Holger Jacob-Friesen
  • Städel Museum, Frankfurt/M.
    Prof. Dr. Jochen Sander
  • Statens Museum for Kunst, Kopenhagen
    Dr. Jørgen Wadum
    Loa Ludvigsen
  • Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt
    Dr. Stefan Rhein
    Jutta Strehle
  • Stiftung Preußischer Schlösser und Gärten, Berlin-Brandenburg
    Dr. Samuel Wittwer
    Mechthild Most
  • Stiftung Schloss Friedenstein Gotha
    Dr. Allmuth Schuttwolf
  • Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest
    Miklós Gálos
  • Thüringisches Hauptstaatsarchiv - Ernestinisches Gesamtarchiv, Weimar
    Dr. Bernhard Post
  • Prof. Dr. Peter Klein, Hamburg
  • Dr. Monika und Dietrich Lücke, Nauendorf

Advisory Board

Dr. Maryan Ainsworth, New York
Dr. Bodo Brinkmann, Basel
Dr. Susan Foister, London
Prof. Dr. Dieter Koepplin, Basel
Dr. Werner Schade, Berlin
Dr. Karl Schütz, Vienna
Dr. Regine Stein, Marburg

Specialist consultancy

Prof. Dr. Thomas Dreier
Sven Mitsdörffer
Institut für Informationsrecht, Zentrum für angewandte Rechtswissenschaft (ZAR),
Universität Karlsruhe / Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

Prof. Dr. Louisa Specht
Lehrstuhl für Europäisches und Internationales Informations- und Datenrecht
Universität Passau

Project team

Prof. Dr. Gunnar Heydenreich (Kunstpalast/CICS)
Helen Smith, Mellon Fellow (CICS)
Jana Herrschaft (CICS)
Daniel Görres (Kunstpalast/CICS)
Prof. Christian Noss (Cologne University of Applied Sciences)
Jörg Stahlmann (up to 2018)

In cooperation with
Prof. Dr. Ingo Sandner, Dresden
Dr. Monika Lücke
Dietrich Lücke

Student assistants

Christine Unsinn (Freie Universität, Berlin)
Linda Schmidt, Sonja Ruß, Svenja Dickmann, Nicole Reds (Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences, University of Applied Sciences)

With contributions by

Désirée Monsees (Universität Kassel)
Laura Thiepold (Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf)
Prof. Dr. Martina Sitt (Universität Kassel)
Prof. Dr. Thomas Pöpper (Westsächsische Hochschule Zwickau)
and many more.

Related projects

Wege zu Cranach


'Routes to Cranach' is a collaborative project, involving the places which have particular significance for the life and work of Lucas Cranach the Elder and Cranach, the family of painters. The aim is both to recognize and preserve Cranach's artistic legacy as well as to showcase his dynasty to a wider public. There are currently twelve partners participating in the project: Coburg, Dessau-Roßlau, Eisenach, Erfurt, Gotha, Kronach, Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Meissen, Neustadt/Orla, Nürnberg, Schneeberg und Weimar. A scientific advisory board comprised of art historians and Cranach experts will supervise the work.

Digitales Kunst- und Kulturarchiv Düsseldorf (d:kult)

d:kult is the joint initiative of museums and cultural institutions of the city of Düsseldorf to manage and to provide access to their collections with estimated 3.5 million objects. The CDA collaborates with d:kult and uses the collection management system as the initial data repository.

Research Space

ResearchSpace is an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funded project aimed at supporting collaborative Internet research, information sharing and publication for the cultural heritage scholarly community. The ResearchSpace environment intends to provide the following integrated elements: Data and digital analysis tools, Collaboration tools, Semantic RDF data sources, Data and digital management tools, Internet design and authoring tools, Web Publication.

Raphael Research Resource

Since 2007, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has been funding a series of pilot projects in digital recording and transmission of art historical and conservation documentation. The National Gallery's Mellon Digital Documentation Project centres on the Gallery's remarkable and diverse group of 10 paintings by Raphael. Collaboration with other institutions allowed other works by Raphael to be included, bringing together art-historical, technical and conservation-based information and creating a platform, which could eventually host Raphael's complete Oeuvre in unprecedented depth.

The Rembrandt Database

The Rembrandt Database is a collaborative pilot project of the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD) and the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague. The project is funded by the Museums and Art Conservation program of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as part of a larger initiative to create digital assets that foster international collaboration between institutions.
The goal of The Rembrandt Database is to create a multi-lingual online research resource capable of integrating conservation, technical and art historical documentation on paintings by or (formerly) attributed to Rembrandt from different museums and international institutions. The database builds upon the extensive network of existing RKD databases, and will be accessible via the website (.com/.net/.eu/.nl).

Cranach Magnified

Cranach Magnified is a pilot project of the J. Paul Getty Museum. Cranach Magnified allows you to investigate the refined painting technique of Lucas Cranach the Elder and his workshop by comparing zoomable macroscopic details from different paintings side by side. The project focuses on paintings executed between 1525 and 1530, and the sinuous, almost calligraphic brushwork, textured foliage, and surprisingly minute features characteristic of Cranach's style in the late 1520s.