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The legend of Lucretia’s suicide is referred to in the work of the Roman historian Titus Livius, among others. Lucretia was a devout wife, but during the absence of her husband Tarquinius Collatinus she was seduced and raped by the son of the Etruscan king, Sextus Tarquinius. She committed suicide in order to remove the slur on her family’s good name. This panel shows a standing Lucretia, dressed in sixteenth-century clothing and coiffure. Her curly hair is gathered up in a gold-coloured hairnet. She is also wearing a necklace of pearls and jewels, and a longer gold chain that Cranach often painted on his female figures. In her left hand, she is holding the weapon and pressing it against her exposed belly. Lucretia’s expression is one of calmness and dignity, and she is not indulging in drama. The exciting interaction between the moralising message and the provocative nudity made this theme popular in Cranach’s workshop. In Cranach’s representations, the story is always narrowed down to the heroine herself and the moment of her suicide, rather than a more detailed narrative depiction. This work, which was made around 1535, is not attributed to Cranach himself, but to a gifted pupil; possibly the Master of the Mass of Saint Gregory.

Details

  • Title: Lucretia’s suicide
  • Creator: Workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder
  • Date: around 1535
  • Provenance: Loan Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. © Peter Cox/Bonnefantenmuseum Maastricht

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