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Lucas Cranach the Elder, Portrait of Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous

Key facts
Full title Portrait of Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous
Artist Lucas Cranach the Elder
Artist dates 1472 - 1553
Group Diptych: Two Electors of Saxony
Date made 1509
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 42 × 31.2 cm
Inscription summary Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1991
Inventory number NG6539
Location Room 25
Collection Main Collection
Portrait of Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous
Lucas Cranach the Elder

This painting makes up the right panel of a portrait diptych (a painting made of two parts) that depicts two future electors of Saxony, Johann the Steadfast and his son, Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous.

Johann Friedrich was six years old when this portrait was made. Against convention, he was portrayed higher up and closer to the viewer than his father, making him appear larger. He faces the viewer straight on, instead of at a quarter-turn to the frame, as was common in many of Cranach’s portraits (and is demonstrated in the left panel of this diptych).

Cranach painted Johann Friedrich’s portrait throughout his life, although his depictions of the Elector as a thickly set man with receding dark hair bear little resemblance to the angelic blonde child in this portrait.

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Diptych: Two Electors of Saxony


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.