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Lucas Cranach the Elder, Primitive People

  1. Introduction
  2. Provenance, exhibitions, versions, and copies
  3. Technical notes
  4. Subject
  5. Attribution and date

Attribution and date

It was suggested by Flechsig that the National Gallery picture might be by Hans Cranach rather than Lucas the Elder, but this proposal has not met with general agreement, and may have resulted from his perception of the slightly worn painting of the flesh of the figures. The lack of a signature should not be an obstacle to accepting the picture as a work of good quality by Lucas Cranach the Elder from the period of the dated works of this type, 1527–35.

The fighting men in the National Gallery picture consist of only two pairs, as in the version at Schaffhausen, although there they are arranged on a diagonal, rather than in the more frieze-like arrangement which Cranach has favoured here. In the Weimar picture, dated 1527, the figures are arranged in the most ambitious manner, deliberately showing backs contrasted with fronts and foreshortened figures lying on the ground with heads lying in contrasting directions. All except the Schaffhausen picture show a woman and her child reminiscent of Cranach’s slightly later depictions of Charity (see NG2925) in the lower right or left corners. The background of the National Gallery picture is closest in composition to the Schaffhausen picture of 1529 and to other paintings of the mid-to late 1520s. It is most plausibly dated to about 1527–30.46

46. See Levey 1959. Freidländer and Rosenberg 1978, no. 263, give a date of c.1530.
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