de jonckheere old masters

Panel: 77,3 x 53 cm
Signed and dated 1548


A woman who was the emblem of the birth of the Roman republic, whose adventures are recounted by Titus Livius in the first book of his Roman History, Lucretia inspired numerous 16th century artists to paint superb compositions extolling her virtues and her beauty.

Upon a visit to Rome, Sextus Tarquin fell madly in love with his cousin’s wife, Lucretia. While a guest in his house, Sextus Tarquin did not hesitate to dishonour Lucretia. The incarnation of purity and Roman honour, Lucretia decided to end her days after having made the Roman nobility swear to avenge her by chasing the Tarquins from Rome in order to establish a republic.

Throughout his career, Cranach was fascinated by this great myth. Several versions of the drama currently belong to some of the most important private and public collections. Each time, the artist highlights the exact moment Lucretia decides to take her life. Our version is no exception to the rule. It perfectly illustrates the painter’s great talent: the body of the woman painted by Cranach truly serves the power of the drama, owing to the particular way it twists. In a richly tense movement, with one hand holding the heavy drape and the other pointing the dagger at her heart, this portrait represents the courage of the Roman lady. Dressed in a thick fur and noble materials, with jewels around her neck and wearing a headdress and a veil, our Lucretia is at the height of her beauty. Her milky skin and firm curves reveal the artist’s talent, which associates the dignity of a high-ranking woman with innocent and virtuous nudity.

Her facial expression is completely original. In versions prior to 1548, Cranach the Elder expressed her pain (Muzeum Narodowe, Warsaw), despair (Gemaldegalerie in Kassel) and impassiveness (Castle of Brandenburg, Berlin), even sometimes throwing the viewer – a witness to her act – a meaningful look ( Neue Residenz de Bamberg). In our version dated 1548, Lucretia turns her eyes from the viewer.

In this version of Lucretia, Cranach uses his own particular brand of genius to portray a woman full of dignity, an icon of beauty who embodies purity.

Provenance :
Kurfürlische Sammlung Dresden;
Carl Heinrich von Heinecken;
Private collection.

Littérature :
MARX Harald; MOSSINGER Ingrid: Cranach, Catalogue from the Dresden exhibition 2005;
In the catalogue of the exhibition, Picasso Registros Alemanes, Museo Picasso Malaga, 2015, p.216;
In the catalogue of the exhibition, Picasso und Deutschland, Museo Picasso Malaga Kunsthalle Würth, Schwäbisch Hall, 2016, p.216.

Expositions :
Museo Picasso Malaga, Picasso Registros Alemanes, 19 October 2015 - 21 February 2016;
Kunsthalle Würth, Schwäbisch Hall, 20 March - 18 September 2016.