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Attributed to the school of Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553)

The Coronation of the Virgin with Saints c.1500-25

Oil on panel | 217.2 x 159.5 x 30.3 cm (closed, flaps down, etc) | RCIN 406920

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  • There are fifteen paintings in the collection associated with the name Lucas Cranach (I and II); one was acquired in the 17th Century, one in the 18th Century and the remainder in the 19th Century. Prince Albert particularly admired Cranach, acquiring ten works, partly as an example of early German art and partly as the court painter to his ancestors. This triptych was acquired by him as a work of Matthias Grünewald, so the interest would have been in the history of German art.

    At some stage in its history this triptych has lost its original frame; its current 19th-century English frame does not match any others in the collection and was probably added before Prince Albert acquired the work. We don't know what other parts - such as a predella panel - may have been lost, but the remaining elements are clearly in their correct position. A central panel has an arched field (originally presumably surrounded by an arched frame). In the centre, the Virgin is crowned by two angels and stands on a face looking down and then on a crescent moon (as described in the Book of Revelations). The grotesque frowning face presumably belongs to Satan and alludes to the curse in the Book of Genesis (Chapter 3, verse 15), whereby God's puts emnity between the serpent and woman's seed, which will 'bruise its head'. This was thought to refer to Christ (or, before it was correctly translated, to the Virgin) overcoming Satan. The Virgin holds the Christ Child who accepts grapes - a symbol of his passion. Saint Catherine stands to the left with her wheel and St Barbara to the right with her tower and book.

    This central panel of the Coronation of the Virgin is only seen when the two doors are opened, in which case their two inner panels are visible flanking this scene, both rectangular and not arched. On the left two pilgrim saints are seen full length, their bare feet walking on rough stony ground. They are St Philip with a cross in his right hand and removing his cap with this left in homage. Next to him stands St James with his pilgrim's staff and hat with his shell on it. On the right hand flanking panel St Erasmus (or Elmo) appears with his Bishop's costume and the windlass, which was used to wind out his guts during his martyrdom.  

    When the doos are closed they meet in the middle and their two outer panels are visible - both arched to make the same shape as the central panel they cover. The left panel depicts St Nicolas with his three golden balls and the right St George with a dead dragon at his feet.
    Provenance


    Purchased for Prince Albert at Christie's, June 1856 from the sale of pictures belonging to the Earl of Orford, who had purchased it in Bavaria, as the work of Matthias Grünewald (Waagen 1854, no. 78)

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on panel

    Measurements

    217.2 x 159.5 x 30.3 cm (closed, flaps down, etc)

    217.2 x 292.9 x 30.3 cm (open, flaps raised, etc)

    169.5 x 56.9 cm (alternative measurement)