Primitive People

The subject of this painting has been much debated. In the 19th century it was called ‘The Effects of Jealousy’. Later interpretations have placed the origins of the subject in a Classical text by Ovid or Lucretius, or possibly showing the quarrelsome end of the Silver Age, according to Hesiod or a contemporary derivation from him. The picture is best understood in the context of the representation of primitive people at this time. Visual parallels can be found in depictions of ‘wild people’ by Cranach’s German contemporaries, notably Durer and Altdorfer.

Similar subjects occur in a number of paintings by Cranach; some of these are dated 1527, 1529 and 1535. This painting may well be of the same period.

Key facts

Artist dates
1472 - 1553
Full title
Primitive People
Date made
Medium and support
Oil on oak
50.2 x 35.7 cm
Acquisition credit
Mond Bequest, 1924
Inventory number
Location in Gallery