Crucifixion

 
Artist
Creation date
Materials
oil on wood
Dimensions
30 x 21 1/2 in.
Credit line
The Clowes Collection
Accession number
2000.344
Collection
Currently On View

As court painter to the Electors of Saxony in Wittenberg, Lucas Cranach resided at the heart of the Protestant Reformation and has often been called its "official artist."  The theologian Martin Luther was his close friend, and Cranach's Crucifixion should be seen in light of the reformer's ideas.  The emphasis on the recognition of Christ's sacrifice by witnesses to his death is a clear reference to one of the central tenets of Lutheran theology: that sinful mankind can be reconciled to God only by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ.

Provenance Research is on-going at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and information will be added to this record as research is completed. Please contact Annette Schlagenhauff, Assoc. Curator of Research, at aschlagenhauff@imamuseum.org with any questions.
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Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

As court painter to the electors of Saxony in Wittenberg, Lucas Cranach resided at the very heart of the emerging Protestant faith. His patrons were powerful champions of Martin Luther's reform of the Church, and Cranach has justifiably been called its "official artist." Cranach made numerous painted and engraved portraits of Luther, who was his close friend, and provided woodcut illustrations for his German translation of the Bible.

Cranach's Crucifixion should be seen in light of Luther's ideas. The emphasis upon the recognition of Christ's sacrifice by witnesses to his death on the Cross is a clear reference to one of the central tenets of Lutheran theology: that sinful mankind can be reconciled to God only by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ. The scene is crowded with figures that are symbolically arrayed at the right and left hand of Christ. To his right, the Virgin collapses into the arms of John the Evangelist, while the grieving Magdalene embraces the Cross. The Good Thief and Longinus, the Roman spear bearer who converted at Christ's death, gaze directly at him. They are contrasted with the brutish soldiers on his left, who ignore him and cast lots for his garments at the foot of the Cross. Cranach positioned the contemporary figures of a monk, a cardinal, and a Turk behind the Cross, among the unenlightened.

[I]mages for memorial and witness, such as crucifixes and images of saints, are to be tolerated.
-Theologian Martin Luther, 1525