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Art in the Holy Roman Empire

Paris, son of the Trojan King Priam, who was living as a shepherd, was sought out by Mercury, the messenger of the gods, and asked to decide which of the three goddesses, Venus, Juno or Minerva, was the most beautiful. Paris chose Venus, who rewarded him

The Judgement of Paris ©

In the sixteenth century, the Holy Roman Empire was a confederation of states roughly equivalent to modern-day Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia. Under the Emperor Maximilian I (ruled 1493 – 1519), whose Triumphal Cart is displayed downstairs, art flourished. The success of Dürer, who lived and worked in the south of the Empire, influenced a generation of artists, including Hans Baldung Grien and Hans Schäufelein, from Dürer’s workshop. The Swiss city of Basel was another centre of production: Hans Holbein the Younger worked as a painter and as a book illustrator for the publisher Johannes Froben, while Urs Graf produced idiosyncratic prints and drawings and ran the city mint.

The Reformation was felt most strongly in the Empire. It was in Wittenberg, under the protection of Frederick the Wise, that Martin Luther first questioned the basis of the established faith, launching a debate across Europe. At Frederick’s court, Lucas Cranach the Elder painted mythological and historical subjects.

Cranach’s elegant nudes and detailed exploration of northern landscape motifs proved popular enough for his workshop to produce numerous versions of such subjects as Lucretia and The Judgement of Paris.

Attributed to a follower of Martin Schongauer (c. 1435/50-1491)

A head of a bearded man wearing a turban

Circle of Hans Baldung Grien (c.1485-1545)

St Conrad

Hans Schäufelein (1482/3-c. 1540)

St Paul

Melchior Pfintzing (1481-1535)


Georg Pencz (c. 1500-1550)

Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536)

Ulrich Apt the Elder (1460-1532) and workshop

Portrait of a Man and his Wife

Lucas Cranach the Elder (c.1472-1553)

Apollo and Diana

Lucas Cranach the Elder (c.1472-1553)


Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553)

The Judgement of Paris

Attributed to Hans Brosamer (c. 1506-1554)

Portrait of a Man

Attributed to Hans Brosamer (c. 1506-1554)

Portrait of a Woman

Augustin Hirschvogel (1503-53)

The Crucifixion

Erhard Altdorfer (1512-61)

St George and the Dragon

Anonymous Swiss Artist, mid-sixteenth century

The Wedding at Cana

Ovid (43 BC-17 AD) Lyons: Jean de Tournes


Attributed to Eliseus Libaerts (active 1561-1569)

Parade shield

Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515-86)

Martin Luther