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Lucas Cranach the Elder, Portrait of Johann the Steadfast and Portrait of Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous

  1. Introduction
  2. Inscription
  3. Technical notes
  4. The sitters
  5. Attribution

Lucas Cranach the Elder
NG6538 and NG6539
Portrait of Johann the Steadfast and Portrait of Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous
Oil on panel, NG 6538 41.2 x 31.0 cm, NG 6539 41.9 x 31.5 cm, framed sizes: both 49.4 x 38.6 x 2.9 cm


Dated 1509 on NG6539, upper right.

Provenance, exhibitions, and versions


The portraits are first recorded as ‘Zwey Churfürsten aus Sachßen Conterfät an Einem Stückh’ (‘Two portraits of the prince electors from Saxony in one piece’) in an inventory listing items in the collection of the Margrave of Baden-Durlach, Karlsburg, Baden-Durlach, which had been transferred in 1688 under Margrave Friedrich VII (ruled 1677–1709) to the Markgräfler Hof, Basel, in order to avoid destruction by French troops in the Nine Years War or War of the Palatine Succession.1 Although in 1715 Margrave Karl III Wilhelm (ruled 1709–38) founded a new capital for his court at Karlsruhe and in 1775 his successor Karl Friedrich (ruled 1738–71) completed a new palace there, many of the paintings, including NG 6538 and 6539, remained stored at Basel. In 1733 and 1776 new inventories were drawn up: the two pictures are recorded in the inventory of 17?33 as ‘Zwey Churfürsten in Sachsen in Schwartz und vergoldeter Rahm so sich zusamen legen laßen’ (‘Two prince electors in Saxony in a black and gilded frame which can be folded together’).2 They were among those works subsequently sold at Basel in 1808. They were purchased, along with nearly a hundred others, by Peter Vischer (1751–1823), later called Vischer-Sarasin, of Schloss Wildenstein in Switzerland, a merchant and municipal councillor of Basel. They remained at Schloss Wildenstein in the possession of the Vischer family (the last of whom, Peter Leonhard, died in 1990) until auctioned at Christie’s, London, on 6 July 1990, no. 42.3 They were purchased through Christie’s in 1991.4


Basel 1974 (596) and (597); Frankfurt and London RA 2007–8 (18).


NG6538: for portraits of Johann the Steadfast sharing this model on next page.

Further sections

1. Vey 1990, citing Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe no. 56/4077.

2. Ibid., citing Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe nos 56/874 and 47/693.

3. Ibid.

4. NG Annual Report, 1991–2, pp. 16–17.
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