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Diptych: Two Electors of Saxony

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These joined portraits depict two future electors of Saxony, Johann the Steadfast and his son, Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous – Cranach worked as court painter to successive electors from 1505 until his death in 1553. The coats of arms on the back of the right panel help to confirm their identities.

The portraits have complementary colour schemes: the green of the background in the father’s portrait is echoed by the green of his son’s clothing, while the black background in the son’s portrait matches his father’s clothing. Johann Friedrich dominates more of the composition than his father and he faces towards the viewer, even though the convention was to place each sitter at a three-quarter turn toward the other.

The frame is original: paint has been detected on the inner edges of the frame, which suggests that the paintings were made after the wooden panels had been fitted into it.