Lucas Cranach the Elder
Portrait of John I of Saxony, 1533
oil on panel
37.7 x 23.2 cm
Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Gift of Lord and Lady Gort
A close friend and follower of Martin Luther (1483–1546), Lucas Cranach the Elder associated with the humanist circles in Wittenberg, Germany, where he served as court painter to Frederick III and his brother John I, the Electors of Saxony from 1486–1532. Cranach’s superb portrait of John I, known as John the Steadfast, a man of deep Lutheran convictions who courageously led the Protestant Confederation of Germany, is direct and unidealized. Presenting an honest but authoritative portrait, he shows the Elector’s wrinkled face and tense demeanour, which bears witness to the troubled religious climate of the times. The absence of any religious imagery reveals not only a change in patronage, but also a trend toward the depiction of individuals and images from everyday life. A long inscription below includes the sitter’s wish that Ferdinand I, the Archduke of Austria, become the Holy Roman Emperor.