Lucas Cranach painted a series of pictures for the decoration of the elector's hunting lodges at Coburg, Lochau and Torgau, drawing on the assistance of numerous collaborators. He often accompanied his patrons on hunts and drew hunting scene included wild boar, wild crows and Bohemian magpies from life. In his role as celebrator of the court, Cranach immortalized the stag hunt organized for Emperor Charles V in 1544: a pastime reserved for noblemen, but also an image of power, regulated by precise rules and involving a multitude of people with well-defined roles.
The slaughter of the deer in the river, in this as in other oil paintings, is a display of strength and devotion on the part of the prince toward his distinguished guest. The hunt was closely related to politics and the management of the territory, with the control of forests and watercourses, but also had the function of keeping in shape the fighters who would have to demonstrate courage and physical fitness in battle.
A prominent role was played by the hounds, considered the swiftest and most noble of dogs. and gifts of dogs and falcons for the hunt were not infrequent, even to popes. A fundamental figure was the man responsible for the care and breeding of the dogs: he had to be familiar with the bases of veterinary medicine and possess qualities of speed, agility and courage so as to keep up with the animals during the hunts and to attack the prey that was being pursued, before the arrival of the hunters with their spears, or long, fixed lances. They usually carried short arms, which did not get in their way, and hunting horns to summon the hunters and guide the dogs. As for the prey, wild-boar hunts were considered more exciting because of their danger, but the stag hunt was often regarded as the more noble, both because it tested the riding skills of the horseman in exhausting pursuits and because of the symbolic value of the animals.
The pleasure of the hunt generally concluded with a banquet, providing another opportunity for social ostentation and for definition of the accords and alliances that had been outlined over the course of the hunt itself.
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