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Key facts
Full title Primitive People
Artist Lucas Cranach the Elder
Artist dates 1472 - 1553
Date made 1527-30
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 50.2 x 35.7 cm
Acquisition credit Mond Bequest, 1924
Inventory number NG3922
Location Room 2
Art route(s) C
Collection Main Collection
Primitive People
Lucas Cranach the Elder

The subject of this painting has been much debated, but it’s generally thought to show an imagined view of a past and primitive society. Cranach made a number of similar paintings from 1527 to 1535. Since the twentieth century it has been assumed that the origin of the subject lies in a classical source.

Two pairs of men are fighting – violence which is more disturbing for its close proximity to three small children. While one woman watches the fighting with a look of shock on her face, another is staring at something over her shoulder, beyond the picture frame. A third woman seems unaware of – or unconcerned by – the chaos around her. Their primitive behaviour takes place outside the realm of civilised society, represented by the buildings in the distance.

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