I must admit that even after having spent several months now learning about History of Art, Cranach was an artist of whom I had never heard. So when a friend suggested we go to see the exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg, I jumped at the chance. The museum has chosen this German Renaissance painter for its first exhibition since reopening, following its temporary closure, as the authorities considered using the space for other things.
Cranach was an artist who reportedly inspired Pablo Picasso, and this is most evident in the representation of the female form, shown often in Cranach’s many pictures of the Virgin Mary, and naked and adulterous women. But he painted many different subjects, and it is this variety that makes the exhibition so fascinating. There are ornate and detailed wood engravings, colourful, fun paintings, and sinister portraits of religious reformers such as Martin Luther, as well as religious scenes that border on the sensual. He often took themes that had already been used by other people, making them new and interesting. Some of my favourites were the paintings of Adam and Eve, a theme he used again and again – each one shows something slightly different, such as the position of the snake, an animal he seems to have been attracted by, as a winged snake eventually became the mark of his Wittenberg workshop.
There are also many paintings by other artists such as Dürer and Metsys, an artist famous for painting Queen Elizabeth I. Audio-guides are available for children and adults, and there is information in different languages about each work, as well as, the possibility of joining a guided tour, and specially-organised family visits. At the beginning of April there will be some art workshops for children, so plenty to get involved with!
Cranach is a confusing artist. His portraits of religious reformers are repressed, dark and eerie. Yet he then paints naughty and provocative court scenes that tell tales of women and secret lovers. His portraits of naked women are enticing and beautiful. His paintings of the Virgin and Child are stunning. Your hour at this exhibition will be varied and multi-faceted, at times making you laugh, and at others making you wonder.
Musée du Luxembourg
9th February – 23rd May
Address : 19 rue de Vaugirard, 75006
Métro: Luxembourg or Odéon
Tél: 01 40 13 62 00
Hours: Everyday 10am – 8pm. Open until 10pm on Friday and Saturday.