Lucas Cranach the Elder / Workshop - Martin Luther

by Stephan Franck


Martin Luther! If for some reason one comes to speak of this personality, one miraculously thinks of the face of the great reformer. This probably has to do with the fact that Lukas Cranach, one of the most famous German painters of the early modern period, created a memorable portrait of Luther. The Wittenberg court painter chose a very small format for this painting - the panel measures just 18.5 x 15 cm. It is one of two miniature double portraits. The counterpart depicts the second great reformer Philipp Melanchton in an equal manner.

Against the moss-green background, the Wittenberg theologian is depicted as a half-length bust. The fixating gaze directed to the left and the slightly compressed lips signal determination and astuteness. Nevertheless, the viewer notices the good-natured expression of the lively eye area. With equal determination, Luther encloses the artfully crafted Bible by means of his hands. Facial expression and gestures are thus an expression of his unrestricted trust in the righteousness in faith, the sola gratia. Lukas Cranach and Martin Luther had already known each other for a quarter of a century when the painting was created.


Numerous portraits of Luther as a monk, as a scholar or as Junker Jörg come from the workshop of the Wittenberg workaholic and also point to the friendly bond between the two personalities. However, it was the widespread copperplate engravings that created a unifying image between Luther as an outstanding icon of the central German reform movement and the Reformation as a humanistic theological greatness.


Lucas Cranach the Elder / Workshop - Martin Luther

Oil on wood, 1534, each 21 x 16 cm, Gallery of the Uffizi in Florence