Cranach, Lucas - by Matt Lundin
Lucas Cranach and the Reformation of the Artist
by Matt Lundin
Review of Steven Ozment: The Serpent and the Lamb: Cranach, Luther, and the Making of the Reformation, Yale University Press, 2012.
Modern scholars have not been particularly kind to Lucas Cranach (1472-1553), the leading painter of the German Reformation. Critics have called him "a spiritual whore," a "bootlicker of established political power," a "PR man" for the Lutheran Reformation, a pornographer who supplied nude pictures to leering men. Renowned for his "fast brush," Cranach managed to keep up with an apparently limitless demand for his work. Well over a thousand paintings bearing his name survive, though many of these were executed by assistants in his workshop. To some, such profligate production suggests a Renaissance artist who sold out, a businessman who catered to all comers, be they evangelical or Catholic, sacred or secular, bourgeois or noble. Cranach may have begun his career in the early 1500s as a worthy rival to Albrecht Dürer. But by the 1530s, detractors contend, the Cranach "painting factory" was churning out shallow, repetitive images—pictures that could be quickly translated into cash or theological talking points.