Lucas Cranach the Elder, Portrait of a Woman

Lucas Cranach the Elder
NG291

Portrait of a Woman
1525–7

Oil on wood (beech?), 36.1 x 25.1 cm (excluding edging strips), painted surface 36.1 x 25.1 cm 

Signature

Cranach's insignia appears lower left; a winged serpent facing right with elevated wings.

Provenance and exhibitions

Provenance

The painting was in the collection of John Talbot, 16th Earl of Shrewsbury (1791–1852), at Alton Abbey, later Alton Towers, by 1835.1 According to the NG MS catalogue the picture was previously in a Nuremberg collection.2 The Earl of Shrewsbury probably acquired it from Friedrich Campe of Nuremberg (1777–1846), a bookseller and publisher. Campe, who collected early Northern European paintings (including the portraits by Robert Campin, NG653.1 and 653.2), sold a picture named as a Van Eyck to the earl in 1829 to finance his journey to England, but the Cranach is not recorded in his possession.3 The picture, which the Director of the National Gallery, Charles Eastlake, called ‘a very agreeable specimen of the master’, was purchased at the Alton Towers sale on 8 July 1857 (no. 259).4

Exhibitions

London NG 1975 (9); London V&A 1981 (P 1); Frankfurt and London RA 2007–8 (78).

Further sections

1. Waagen 1838, vol. III, pp. 259–60, recording his visit in 1835: ‘A Female portrait, half the size of life; remarkably careful in the execution and in a very warm tone’; Alton 1850, p. 21, ‘Lucas Cranach – A Female portrait’.

2. The NG MS catalogue states that the picture was ‘formerly in the possession of a family at Nuremberg from whom it was obtained by the late Earl of Shrewsbury’. As Levey noted (Levey 1959, p. 19), if the the Earl of Shrewsbury’s picture came from the Campe collection, it is unlikely to be identical to the picture in the Ottley sale in London on 25 May 1811 (9, Cranach): ‘it is probable that this is the Portrait of a Princess of Saxony’, a provenance proposed in the 1929 catalogue.

3. Passavant 1836, vol. II, p. 81 (referring to paintings by Van Eyck and Memling): ‘The Earl purchased the two last-mentioned pictures from Mr Campe, of Nurnberg’. The painting named as a Van Eyck was sold to Shrewsbury by Campe in 1829 to finance his journey to England: see Reynot 1962, p. 35. The Cranach might have been sold at this time also, or on the London visit, but there are no records of it being in Campe’s collection; it is not included in Umrisse zu Oelgemaelden aus der Dr. Fr. Campe’schen Sammlung ... n.d., which contains 18 line engravings of paintings in Campe’s collection, among which are three works by Cranach.

4. NG Archive file NG5/227/1857. Eastlake recommended bidding up to £80 but the picture was purchased for £50 8s.
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