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Lucas Cranach the Elder - The Fountain of Youth

by Alexandra Tuschka

It is probably one of the oldest wishes of mankind, which was thematized by the German painter Lucas Cranach the Elder: Eternal youth and beauty. Old makes young! - promises here a simple bath in the fountain of youth. In order to be able to pursue the joys of life again, numerous old women find themselves at this. Some of them are so frail that they have to be carried by horses and men or transported in carts. The demand for the miraculous, youth-giving water is great. The metamorphosis from old to young happens, rather abruptly, in the middle of the painting and in the usual direction of reading. On the right, the women, who are still old, rise from the water as young and beautiful girls. Here they are immediately led into a tent, where they are nicely dressed. The landscape in the background also symbolizes this transformation. On the left there are large rock formations, on the right there is lush vegetation.

Although the men in the left part of the picture also appear older and more frail, only the women enter the bath and reflect their socially influenced desire for eternal beauty. The right part of the picture seems completely detached, no indication of age and the arduous journey to the fountain. Cranach divided his picture into two parts with separate contents. The well with the miraculous water is located in the center of the picture. In its center is a perch of Venus and Cupid. These stand as a symbol of love. The entire scenery opens up to the viewer like a stage. A small grassy area separates the hustle and bustle from him. He can watch the action with a smile from a distance and smile at the unrealistic but human desire for eternal beauty and immortality.

Lucas Cranach the Elder - The Fountain of Youth

Oil on wood, 1546, 122 x 186.5 cm, Gemäldegalerie in Berlin


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