Studio of Lucas Cranach the Elder (Kronach 1472-1553 Weimar), Portrait of Frederick III (1463-1525), the Wise, Elector of Saxony, bust-length, in a white shirt, fur-lined coat, and black hat. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2011
signed with the artist's device of a dragon with wings folded and dated '1532' (upper left); oil on panel and printed paper laid down on panel ; 7 7/8 x 5¾ in. (20 x 14.6 cm.). Estimate $70,000 - $100,000
labeled (printed paper on panel): (upper right) 'Friderich der Drit Chur- fur[s]t vnd Herzog zu Sachssen.'; (bottom) 'Fridrich bin ich billich genand Schönen frid ich erhielt im land. Durch gros vernunfft gedult und glück Widder manchen erzbösen tuck. Das land ich zieret mit gebew Und Stifft ein hohe Schul auffs new, Zu Wittenberg im Sachssen land Inn der welt die ward bekand Denn aus der selb kam Gottes wort Und thet gros ding an manchem ort. Das Zepstlich Reich störgt es nidder Und bracht rechten glauben widder. Zum Keisar ward erkorn ich Des mein alter beschweret sich. Dafur ich [Keisar Car]l erwelt Von dem mich nicht wand gonst noch gelt.' ('I am rightly called Friedrich, for I maintained a blessed peace in my domain with great wisdom, patience, and luck, despite the machinations of a number of rogues. I graced my lands with new buildings and endowed a new university at Wittenberg in Saxony that became famous throughout the world, for from it the Word of God came forth and wrought great change in many places. It destroyed the papal empire and brought back the true faith. They elected me emperor, but my old age protested, so I chose Emperor Charles [Charles V, 1500-1558] and neither favors nor money could dissuade me.')
Notes : Residing in Wittenberg, the very heart of the Protestant Reformation, Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, was a sophisticated patron whose court was a leading cultural center. The present painting was part of a group of sixty portrait pairs commissioned in 1532 by Frederick's nephew, John Frederick the Magnanimous (the other likenesses were of the Elector's brother, John the Steadfast). The lengthy inscription was authored by Martin Luther, who entertained a close relationship with Cranach, both serving as godfathers to each other's children. The two small notches on the upper edge seem to indicate that this panel was originally displayed unframed, suspended by a cord. Around 1867-68, Edgar Degas paid homage to Cranach by including a version of this powerful likeness of the robust Frederick the Wise in his Portrait of James Tissot (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art) 'below).
Edgar Degas (French, Paris 1834–1917 Paris), James-Jacques-Joseph Tissot (1836–1902), ca. 1867–68. Oil on canvas, 59 5/8 x 44 in. (151.4 x 111.8 cm). Rogers Fund, 1939. 39.161. The Metropolitan Museum of Art © 2000–2011 The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Christie's. Old Master & 19th Century Paintings, Drawings & Watercolors Part I, 26 January 2011, New York, Rockefeller Plaza www.christies.com