Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Portrait of a Man with a Rosary

Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, Kronach 1472–1553 Weimar)
ca. 1508
Oil on oak
18 3/4 x 13 7/8 in. (47.6 x 35.2cm)
Credit Line:
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 643
This painting and a Portrait of a Woman in Prayer (Kunsthaus, Zürich) originally formed the wings of a devotional triptych. The young, well-dressed sitter appears seemingly transfixed by the now lost central image—perhaps of the Virgin and Child—to which he offers a silent prayer as he pauses on a bead of the rosary held in his hand. The man’s ring, bearing the coat of arms of the Dutch families of Six van Hillegom and Six van Oterleek, suggests that he came from the Low Countries. Cranach probably painted this portrait during his trip to the Netherlands in 1508.
This sensitive portrait shows a well-dressed young man seemingly transfixed by a devotional image—perhaps of the Virgin and Child—to which he offers a silent prayer as he pauses on a bead of the rosary held in his right hand. On the reverse, a trompe-l'oeil image of a statue of a bald, bearded, and barefoot saint perhaps represents Saint Peter, but the work is too damaged for a definitive identification.

Initially expressing some hesitation, Friedländer (1916) was the first to link this panel to the authorship of Lucas Cranach the Elder. He pointed out that the large curves and heavy shadows of the head are similar to those found in the portraits in the Torgau (Holy Kinship) Altarpiece of 1509 (Städel Museum, Frankfurt) and supposed that the panel could have been painted during Cranach's trip to the Netherlands in 1508. By the time of Friedländer and Rosenberg's (1932) monograph, there was no further doubt about the attribution, which has been accepted ever since.

In 1966 Koepplin (unpublished opinion, departmental files) first proposed this portrait as the pendant of the Portrait of a Woman in Prayer (Kunsthaus Zürich), a work that also represents on its reverse a niche containing a grisaille statue of a saint, Catherine of Alexandria. Except for the fact that the female portrait is cut at the bottom, the two panels match closely in size; they also share a similar green background, even though these colors have shifted in differing ways. There was most likely a central panel, twice the width of the two donor panels that, when closed, would have revealed the grisaille images.

The saints, probably also by Cranach's own hand, are likely the patron saints of the man and woman, who therefore might be a Peter(?) and a Catherine. Other clues to the identity of the sitters appear in the costume of the woman, who wears a Dutch hood, and in the man's ring, which bears the coat of arms of the Dutch family of Six van Hillegom or Six van Oterleek. Also of note is the fact that the panel is made of Baltic oak, the customary support for paintings produced in the Netherlands and one that was used only rarely by Cranach and his workshop. These factors, as well as the probable original format as the wings of a Netherlandish triptych, suggest that the sitters were from the Low Countries and that the portraits were painted there, probably during Cranach's visit in 1508.

[2013; adapted from Ainsworth 2013]

The panel support is a single plank of Baltic oak, with the grain oriented vertically. Dendrochronological analysis indicated an earliest possible fabrication date of 1502.The panel, which has developed a slight transverse convex warp, has been trimmed on the bottom and the right side. Its dimensions are closest to those of Heydenreich Format C. The verso displays a shallow bevel, wider on the untrimmed edges. A barbe on both sides along the untrimmed edges indicates that an engaged frame was in place when a thin white ground was applied to both sides of the panel. On the verso, only fragments remain of a male saint standing in an arched niche painted in grisaille.
The portrait is in good condition. There are several scratches on the face, losses along the craquelure in the clothing, and two large losses in the right shoulder and sleeve. The more thickly applied red paint outlining the contour of the delicately modeled mouth appears more prominent than intended because of general abrasion and perhaps some fading in the lips. The background, which may originally have been a more vibrant green, now appears a mottled brownish green as a result of the characteristic degradation of paint layers containing copper-green pigments.
Infrared reflectography (see Additional Images, fig. 1) revealed changes to the placement of the left eye and the contours of the left brow, tip of the nose, and chin. The increased transparency of the paint layers over time has caused the adjustment to the nose to be visible in normal light.
The signet ring on the man’s left index finger is painted in a systematic manner typical of Cranach, with applications of an orangey medium brown, dark brown, and opaque yellow. The hair, too, shows the artist’s typical approach, with individual dark brown and off-white strands painted over an initial brushy application of warm brown. A very finely ground blue pigment, visible with magnification, is used to color the gemstone and the whites of the eyes. The damask sleeve is painted with no attempt to adjust the pattern to the modeling. The green background is underpainted with a pinkish brown color.
[2013; adapted from German Paintings catalogue]
private collection, England; [Cottier and Co., New York, until 1914; sold to Havemeyer]; Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1914–d. 1929)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 11–November 2, 1930, no. 41 [2nd ed., 1958, no. 183].

Palm Beach. Society of the Four Arts. "Portraits, Figures and Landscapes," January 12–February 4, 1951, no. 15.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A168.

Frankfurt. Städel Museum. "Cranach der Ältere," November 23, 2007–February 17, 2008, no. 12.

London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Cranach der Ältere," March 8–June 8, 2008, no. 12.

Brussels. Palais des Beaux-Arts. "L'Univers de Lucas Cranach," October 20, 2010–January 23, 2011, no. 60.

Max J. Friedländer. "Ein neu erworbenes Porträt Cranachs." Amtliche Berichte aus den Königl. Kunstsammlungen 37 (April 1916), col. 132, states that it went from an English private collection to an American art dealer; notes that it is painted on oak, and is therefore probably from the Netherlands and, if by Cranach, dates from 1508, because he was in the Netherlands at that time.

Max J. Friedländer. "Gemälde Cranachs aus der Zeit um 1509." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 30 (1919), p. 84, ill. p. 82, as in an American private collection.

"Havemeyer Collection at Metropolitan Museum: Havemeyers Paid Small Sums for Masterpieces." Art News 28 (March 15, 1930), ill. p. 35.

"Die Sammlung Havemeyer im Metropolitan-Museum." Pantheon 5 (May 1930), ill. p. 216.

Frank Jewett Mather Jr. "The Havemeyer Pictures." The Arts 16 (March 1930), ill. p. 471.

H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, p. 14, ill.

Max J. Friedländer and Jakob Rosenberg. Die Gemälde von Lucas Cranach. Berlin, 1932, p. 39, no. 49, ill., date it about 1510–12 on the basis of style, noting that although the oak panel suggests that it was produced in the Netherlands during Cranach's time there in 1508, there are also later examples of Cranach paintings on oak supports; mention a related portrait included in the Sedelmeyer sale of 1907 [see Ref. Fischer 1958].

Hans Tietze. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935, p. 339, pl. 204 [English ed., "Masterpieces of European Painting in America," New York, 1939, p. 323, pl. 204].

Charles L. Kuhn. A Catalogue of German Paintings of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in American Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1936, p. 37, no. 89, dates it about 1511.

Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 199–200, ill., date it 1510–12; note that the rosary and the traces of a grisaille figure on the reverse suggest that the panel was devotional and may have been the wing of a small altarpiece opposite an image of the Virgin and Child; identify the coat of arms on the sitter's ring as that of the Dutch family Six te Hillegom.

Gabriel Rouchès. Cranach l'Ancien, 1472–1553. Paris, 1951, pl. 20, dates it about 1508.

Grosse Kunstauktion in Luzern. Galerie Fischer, Lucerne. June 17–21, 1958, p. 140, under no. 2767, mentions it in connection with a similar portrait included in the sale [previously sold in 1907; see Ref. Friedländer and Rosenberg 1932].

Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. New York, 1961, p. 20.

Dieter Koepplin. "Zu Cranach als Zeichner—Addenda zu Rosenbergs Katalog." Kunstchronik 25 (October 1972), p. 347.

Dieter Koepplin and Tilman Falk. Lukas Cranach: Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Druckgraphik. Exh. cat., Kunstmuseum Basel. Vol. 2, Basel, 1976, p. 682, pls. 333 (obverse), 335 (reverse), Koepplin suggests that the MMA and Zürich portraits were the wings of an altarpiece, with a horizontal central panel of some sacred subject, comparable to the small devotional triptychs of Memling and to Rogier van der Weyden's Bracque triptych (Musée du Louvre, Paris); dates the Zürich picture about 1508; attributes the grisaille figures on the reverses of the two portraits to Cranach himself and calls them in the Netherlandish style, also describing the headdress worn by the woman in the Zürich portrait as Netherlandish.

Max J. Friedländer and Jakob Rosenberg. The Paintings of Lucas Cranach. rev. ed. Ithaca, N.Y., 1978, p. 80, no. 56, ill.

Werner Schade. Cranach: A Family of Master Painters. New York, 1980, pp. 54, 384 nn. 383–84, pp. 459–60, pl. 61 [German ed., "Die Malerfamilie Cranach," Dresden, 1974, pp. 54, 384 nn. 383–84, p. 460, pl. 61], dates it about 1510, and accepts Koepplin's identification of the MMA and Zürich portraits as pendants.

Frances Weitzenhoffer. "The Creation of the Havemeyer Collection, 1875–1900." PhD diss., City University of New York, 1982, p. 166 n. 7.

Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, p. 255.

Angelica Dülberg. Privatporträts: Geschichte und Ikonologie einer Gattung im 15. und 16. Jahrhundert. Berlin, 1990, pp. 85, 261, no. 241, figs. 328 (obverse), 331 (reverse).

Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein. 3rd ed. [1st ed. 1930, repr. 1961]. New York, 1993, pp. 20, 310 n. 38.

Maryan W. Ainsworth in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 54–55, colorpl. 56, notes that although the MMA and Zürich portraits may have flanked a central panel of the Virgin Mary, the fact that the man wears a hat makes this unlikely.

Susan Alyson Stein in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 264.

Gary Tinterow in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 10.

Gretchen Wold in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 321, no. A168, ill., adds to the provenance of the picture.

Fedja Anzelewsky. "Studien zur Frühzeit Lukas Cranachs d.Ä." Städel-Jahrbuch, n.s., 17 (1999), pp. 136, 144 n. 36.

Gunnar Heydenreich. "Painting Materials, Techniques and Workshop Practice of Lucas Cranach the Elder." PhD diss., Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, 2002, vol. 1, p. 35.

Peter Klein. Letter to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. April 27, 2006, writes that dendrochronological analysis reveals that the earliest felling date for the tree from which this panel is made is 1500, with a date between 1504 and 1510 being more plausible; adds that a minimum of two years for seasoning means that the earliest possible execution date for the painting is 1502 and that a date of 1508 or later is more likely.

Bodo Brinkmann in Cranach der Ältere. Ed. Bodo Brinkmann. Exh. cat., Städel Museum. Frankfurt, 2007, pp. 138–39, no. 12, ill. (color, obverse and reverse).

Guido Messling. L'Univers de Lucas Cranach: un peintre à l'époque de Dürer, de Titien et de Metsys. Exh. cat., Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. Paris, 2010, p. 138, no. 60, ill. pp. 138 and 172 (color).

Till-Holger Borchert in Guido Messling. L'Univers de Lucas Cranach: un peintre à l'époque de Dürer, de Titien et de Metsys. Exh. cat., Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. Paris, 2010, p. 27.

Maryan W. Ainsworth in German Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1350–1600. New Haven, 2013, pp. 44–46, 284, no. 8, ill. (color) and fig. 37 (color, reverse).

Benjamin D. Spira in Lucas Cranach der Ältere: Meister—Marke—Moderne. Ed. Gunnar Heydenreich et al. Exh. cat., Museum Kunstpalast. Düsseldorf, 2017, p. 158, figs. 10–11 (color, obverse and reverse), under no. 69.

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