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Adam, c. 1530

Lucas Cranach the Elder
German, 1472-1553
Oil on panel (one of a pair)
75 x 27-1/2 in. (190.5 x 69.9 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

Not on View

The son of a painter, Cranach was born in the town of Kronach in Franconia. In 1504, Frederick the Wise of Saxony called him to Wittenberg, where he became Court Painter. Cranach received his noble patron's coat of arms in 1508. This emblem, a winged serpent bearing a ring in its mouth, can be seen on the trunk of the tree beside Adam.

Cranach's treatment of forms and space is rather abstract, even though our initial impression may focus on their apparent naturalism. The highly linear, ornamental manner, and corresponding emotional detachment, are consistent with the Mannerist aesthetic of the sixteenth century. This secular treatment of an Old Testament subject was meant for pleasure rather than instruction. Adam and Eve were probably painted for a member of the court of the Elector and intended to hang in domestic surroundings.

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