• Diptych with the Portraits of Luther and his Wife

Diptych with the Portraits of Luther and his Wife

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Diptych with the Portraits of Luther and his Wife (Portrait of Luther; Portrait of Katharina vou Bora)
Artist: Lucas Cranach the ElderPortrait painting on panel; Size: 37x23 cm, 37x23 cm; Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

To meet the growing demand for portraits of Luther, Lucas Cranach 's studio organized the mass production of art works characterized by small variants and clean and incisive outlines that were easy to do painting reproduction.
Cranach had very close relations with the reformer, standing as his best man at his marriage and as the godfather of his firstborn, while Luther, for his part, was godfather to one of the painter's daughters. The first parallel oil painting portrait of Luther and his wife Katharina von Bora, dating from 1526, was probably painted on the occasion of their wedding. The painting portrait reproduced here date from 1529. Luther is presented in a very simple manner, as a man who could be trusted where questions of faith and the Church are concerned. Cranach helped the spread of Protestantism through the publication and diffusion of Luther's writings and translation of the New Testament, while one influence of the Reformation on the painter's art can be detected in his choice of particular themes: original sin, redemption, Christ blessing the children. Luther had not expressed himself clearly on the role of images, which more radical reformers, such as Andreas Karlstadt, wished to destroy in order to prevent them from being worshiped in the place of the divinity they represented. Luther's aspiration to turn Germany into a truly Christian society was based on an intimate understanding of the Scriptures, through what he defined as his "catechism," in its original meaning of "oral teaching," for a more direct contact between man and God. The central concept of his theology was the grace of God, freely granted to men in their earthly existence. The reformer was convinced that all the arts, including music, should contribute to the service of God, and asserted that his duty was to "destroy images first of all by removing them from the heart through the word of God and thus rendering them devoid of value and insignificant. For when they are no longer in the heart, they can do no harm if seen with the eyes."

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