This oil sketch was a preliminary work related to a full-length portrait painting, which also makes it possible to identify the sitter. The painting was created in 1564, in the course of a series of portraits of the Saxon Elector’s family. Thus, the sitter is aged twelve. Later, in 1570, she married the Calvinist Count Palatine John Casimir, and consequently suffered considerable hardships because of her Lutheran confession.
It is remarkable how the artist has strictly concentrated on the fully finished face while only cursorily suggesting everything else. The drawing was carried out in black chalk on a faintly pink ground. The flesh tones have been added to this foundation in a strong pink, which becomes more transparent in the shadows. The plait of hair in yellow and brown completes the face, while the rest of the image is only indicated by strokes of brown added afterwards. The elder Cranach had developed this efficient and convincing technique for coloured sketches. The likeness possesses an idealizing quality – which has nonetheless not prevented some from considering it to have been executed from life – that is well suited to this technique. The work’s outstanding quality derives from its balancing of aesthetic form and palpable human presence.


  • Title: Portrait of Princess Elisabeth of Saxony
  • Creator: Lucas Cranach the Younger
  • Date: 1564
  • Physical Dimensions: w28.5 x h38.8 cm
  • Type: Paper
  • Medium: Brush, sketched in brown, face and plait of hair executed in oils; paper prepared with light pink oil paint
  • Inv.-No.: KdZ 4452
  • ISIL no.: DE-MUS-018511
  • External Link: Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyright: Photo © bpk - Photo Agency / Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Jörg P. Anders │ Text © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Gero Seelig
  • Collection: Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz
  • Artist Place of Death: Weimar, Germany
  • Artist Place of Birth: Kronach, Germany
  • Artist Gender: Male
  • Artist Dates: 1472.10.04 - 1553.10.16

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