Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1526)

Lucas Cranach the Elder was born Lucas Sünder in Kronach, Franconia in 1472 but later changed his surname in honour of his German birthplace.  Moved to Vienna in 1501 where he stayed for three years during which time he painted some of his finest and most original works.   Several of his religious works of that period show a remarkable feeling for the beauty of landscape characteristics of the Donnauschule (Danube School), which was a group of German and Austrian artists of the early sixteenth century, who were among the pioneers in depicting landscape, in particular those of the forests and hills of the Danube, for its own sake, in drawings and prints as well as paintings.

Today’s painting in My Daily Art Display is Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Adam and Eve painted in 1526 and is one of 50 depictions Cranach did of this subject and this depiction is inarguably the most beautiful. In this earlier depiction, the tree of knowledge stands in the centre of the painting between them and they are surrounded by painted wildlife and green pastures. Eve raises the fruit to give to a confused Adam. The painting shows the skill Cranach had in painting wildlife and game and his continued attention to detail, for example, the reflection of the Deer in the pond and the Unicorn in the background. The portrayal of Eve shows his growing attention to portraying the female form, which becomes more evident in paintings such as The Venus (1532). Throughout his career Cranach used his artistic talents to further the Lutheran cause. In depictions such as Adam and Eve, Cranach was able to develop his talent in detailed studies of wildlife, nudes and landscapes with no objection from Luther, who saw Cranach’s depictions as furthering the biblical message.