The Crucifixion

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Lucas Cranach the Elder
German, 1472 (?)-1553

The Crucifixion, 1538

Oil on panel
47 3/4 x 32 1/2 in. (121.1 x 82.5 cm); painted surface: 47 x 32 1/2 in. (119.4 x 82.5 cm)
Inscribed: device of serpent with lowered wings and 153[8] (on cross)
Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection, 1947.62

In this crowded scene, traditional vignettes from the Crucifixion story surround the central figure of Christ on the cross. The swooning Virgins and other believers are represented at Christ's right hand. On the other, less-favored side of the cross are Christ's condemners and the cynics who rejected him, among them the soldiers who cast dice to divide up his clothing. Although Lucas Cranach the Elder was a friend of Martin Luther and a firm supporter of the Reformation, his highly successful workshop produced altarpieces for both Protestant and Catholic patrons. In this painting, probably used as an altarpiece, the artist does not take a stand in the doctrinal struggle that grew out of Luther's preaching and writing beginning in 1517.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, Kleinberger, Loan Exhibition of German Primitives for the Benefit of the American Red Cross, 1928, no. 28.

Art Institute of Chicago, Loan Exhibition of Old Masters, 1928–29 (no cat.).

New York, Van Die-men Galleries, Exhibition of Paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553), 1929, no. 12.

Renaissance Society, University of Chi-cago, Loan Exhibition of Religious Art from the Fourth Century to the Present Time, 1930, no. 34.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress, 1933, no. 13.

Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress, 1934, no. 11.

Art Institute of Chicago, Masterpieces of Religious Art, 1954, pp. 22–23.

Publication History

Harry Adsit Bull, Jr., “Seen in the Galleries,” International Studio 91, 379 (1928), pp. 65 (ill.), 78.

“Early German Paintings at Klein-berger’s,” Art News 27, 5 (1928), p. 14 (ill.).

Frank Jewett Mather, Jr., “An Exhibition of German Primitives,” Arts 14 (1928), pp. 309–10 (ill.).

D[aniel] C[atton] R[ich], “A Crucifixion by Lucas Cranach the Elder,” Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 23 (1929), pp. 6–7 (ill.).

Frank E. Washburn Freund, “Ausstellung altdeutscher Malerei in den F. Kleinberger Galleries zu New York,” Belvedere 8 (1929), p. 285.

The Art Institute of Chicago, A Guide to the Paintings in the Permanent Collection, 1932, p. 191.

Max J. Friedländer and Jakob Rosenberg, Die Gemälde von Lucas Cranach, Berlin, 1932,, p. 85, no. 302, fig. 302; rev. Eng. ed., 1978, pp. 144–45, no. 377, fig. 377.

Charles L. Kuhn, A Catalogue of German Paintings of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in American Collections, Cambridge, Mass., 1936, pp. 39–40, no. 108.

Daniel Catton Rich, ed., Catalogue of the Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection of Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings, Chicago, 1938, p. 39, no. 34, pl. 36.

Oskar Thulin, Cranach-Altäre der Reforma-tion, Berlin, 1955, pp. 36–46.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago: A Catalogue of the Picture Collection, 1961, pp. 109–10, 150 (ill.).

A. Schacher, “Crucifixion (in Art),” in New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 4, Washington, D.C., 1967, p. 494, fig. 17.

John Maxon, The Art Institute of Chicago, London, 1970, pp. 250 (ill.), 279.

A. Ian Fraser, A Catalogue of the Clowes Collec-tion, Indianapolis, 1973, p. 176.

Werner Schade, Die Maler-Fami-lie Cranach, Dresden, 1974, pp. 86, 388.

Colin Eisler, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools Excluding Italian, Oxford, 1977, pp. 24–25. Morse 1979, p. 84.

Laurinda S. Dixon, “The Crucifixion by Lucas Cranach the Elder: A Study in Lutheran Reform Iconography,” Perceptions: An Annual Publica-tion of the Indianapolis Museum of Art 1 (1981), pp. 36, 42, fig. 6.

Albert G. Hess, “Pictorial Representations as Sources for Histori-cal Criminology,” Criminal Justice History 2 (1981), pp. 65–70, fig. 1.

D[ieter] K[oepplin], in Martin Luther und die Reformation in Deutschland: Ausstellung zum 500. Geburtstag Martin Luthers, exh. cat., Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, 1983, p. 372, under no. 494.

R[enate] K[roll], in Kunst der Reformation-szeit, exh. cat., Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, 1983, p. 365, under no. E 60.

Samuel Y. Egerton, Jr., Pictures and Punishment. Art and Criminal Prosecution during the Florentine Renaissance, Ithaca, N.Y., and London, 1985, p. 192 n. 23.

Heinrich Magirius, “Der Cranachaltar in der St. Wolf-gangskirche zu Schneeberg: 1, Geschichte des Cranachsaltar,” Zeitschrift für Kunsttechnologie und Konservierung 6 (1992), pp. 299–300.

Stephan Klingen, Anhaltische Gemäldegalerie Dessau: Die deutschen Gemälde des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts, Weimar, 1996, pp. 30, 34, under nos. 16, 17.

Mitchell B. Merback, The Thief, the Cross, and the Wheel: Pain and the Spectacle of Punishment in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, Chicago, 1998, pp. 292–95, figs. 104, 115.

Mitchell B. Merback, “Torture and Teaching: The Reception of Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Martyrdom of the Twelve Apostles in the Protestant Era,” Art Journal 57 (1998), pp. 21–22, fig. 7.

Martha Wolff in Martha Wolff et al., Northern European and Spanish Paintings before 1600 in the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 2008, pp. 353-58, ill.

Ownership History

Sir Fairfax Cartright (d. 1928), Aynho Park, Banbury [according to letter from Robert Langton Douglas to Charles Worces-ter, Nov. 25, 1928, in curatorial file]. Julius Böhler, Munich, 1928 [according to receipt and other records in the registrar’s office.]; sold to Charles H. Worcester, Chicago, Sept. 1928; on loan to the AIC from 1928; given to the AIC, 1947.