The quality of these three large woodcuts and their affinity to the painted, life-sized, full-length portraits of Luther and Melanchthon from the Cranach workshop suggest they were based on a sketch by Cranach the Younger. To the images of the two Reformers, a portrait of the Bohemian Reformer Jan Hus was added. Hus’s teachings and ideas were adopted by Luther, who considered him a precursor. Hus was condemned and burned at the stake by the Council of Constance in 1415. Each of these prints is composed of eight large and three small sheets. In the case of Melanchthon and Hus, in order to save work and thus costs, the blocks were changed only for the heads. The electoral coat of arms suggests it was commissioned by the sovereign. These woodcuts, several copies of which survive, usually from churches, were not produced in large editions or inexpensively. At the same time, they did offer a simpler, more affordable and broader way to disseminate portraits than would have been possible with paintings.

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  • Title: Jan Hus
  • Creator: Lucas Cranach the Younger and Workshop
  • Date Created: c. 1580
  • Physical Dimensions: 137 × 68 cm
  • Technique and Material: Three woodcuts from eleven blocks, transferred to wood panel
  • Provenance: From the Dippoldiswalde church before 1885
  • Museum: Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Kupferstich-Kabinett
  • Inv.-No.: A 1885–45
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-845516
  • External Link: http://www.skd.museum/de/museen-institutionen/residenzschloss/kupferstich-kabinett/
  • Copyright: Photo © Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Kupferstich-Kabinett/ Herbert Boswank; Text © Renaissance and Reformation: German Art in the Age of Dürer and Cranach, A Cooperation of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, and the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München, Catalogue of the Exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Nov 20, 2016 – March 26, 2017, Munich: Prestel, 2016; cat. no. 24 / Claudia Schnitzer
  • Catalogue: https://prestelpublishing.randomhouse.de/book/Renaissance-and-Reformation/Stephanie-Buck/Prestel-com/e504919.rhd
  • Artist Dates: 1515 Wittenberg–1586 Wittenberg
  • Artist Biography: The painter was trained in his father’s workshop, which he ran successfully after Lucas Cranach the Elder left Wittenberg (following his employer, John Frederick of Saxony, into exile). In many cases, clear separation of their oeuvres is only possible in the late work. Like his father before him, Cranach the Younger held respected political offices in Wittenberg.