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The Serpent and the Lamb

The Serpent and the Lamb: Cranach, Luther, and the Making of the Reformation'

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Serpent and the Lamb
    Book Description:

    This compelling book retells and revises the story of the German Renaissance and Reformation through the lives of two controversial men of the sixteenth century: the Saxon court painter Lucas Cranach (the Serpent) and the Wittenberg monk-turned-reformer Martin Luther (the Lamb). Contemporaries and friends (each was godfather to the other's children), Cranach and Luther were very different Germans, yet their collaborative successes merged art and religion into a revolutionary force that became the Protestant Reformation. Steven Ozment, an internationally recognized historian of the Reformation era, reprises the lives and works of Cranach (1472-1553) and Luther (1483-1546) in this generously illustrated book. He contends that Cranach's new art and Luther's oratory released a barrage of criticism upon the Vatican, the force of which secured a new freedom of faith and pluralism of religion in the Western world. Between Luther's pulpit praise of the sex drive within the divine estate of marriage and Cranach's parade of strong, lithe women, a new romantic, familial consciousness was born. The "Cranach woman" and the "Lutheran household"-both products of the merged Renaissance and Reformation worlds-evoked a new organization of society and foretold a new direction for Germany.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17838-8
    Subjects: History, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: What’s in a Coat-of-Arms?
    (pp. 1-5)

    In 1508, three years after his hiring as court painter to the electoral Saxon dynasty seated in Wittenberg, the thirty-six-year-old painter Lucas Cranach received a wondrous coat-of-arms from his lord, Elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony. Honoring his good services, the eye-popping shield displayed a mesmerizing winged serpent endowed with awesome life-giving powers, much as its human bearer would become known for.

    The recipient, an early admirer of Albrecht Dürer in the contemporary art world, was a rising star among the best German Renaissance painters who recorded the age’s religious reforms and confessional wars for posterity. Open-minded and ecumenical in...

  5. 1 Cranach in History, Art, and Religion
    (pp. 6-28)

    Recently Germans, Europeans, and connoisseurs of fine art around the world have been rediscovering the most prolific artist of the European Renaissance and the Reformation: Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553), court painter to the electoral Saxon dynasty seated in Wittenberg, then a center of German Renaissance art and the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation. There have been five exhibitions of Cranach’s works from almost as many collections and in almost as many years (January 2005 through October 2010).¹

    Worldwide, roughly one thousand surviving Cranach paintings exist today, four hundred authenticated to Cranach alone, the other six hundred attributed to...

  6. 2 Chasing Dürer
    (pp. 29-56)

    Kronach was not Nürnberg and Cranach’s origins were not Dürer’s. He was born in the small, unwalled Upper Franconian town of Kronach in 1472, his mother the daughter of a shoemaker and his father a Bavarian immigrant. Hans Maler (“Hans the Painter”) is remembered today as the founder of three generations of Cranach family painters, although he appears to have been rather more a craftsman than an artist himself.¹ There are few undisputed facts in the first thirty years of Cranach’s life, starting with the date of his birth.² Not until the turn of the sixteenth century, after he had...

  7. 3 The Compleat Court Painter
    (pp. 57-88)

    By the time he left Vienna, Cranach had mastered Dürer and discovered himself as an artist.¹ Although their rivalry continued until Dürer’s death (1528), Cranach had convinced leading German humanists, the Saxon elector Frederick the Wise, and, most importantly, himself that he had the promise of Dürer’s artistry. Thereafter, he tackled a Durer subject only to please a Dürer-smitten patron, or to improve on a Dürer artwork, but no longer to stay abreast of the great Nürnberger.

    While en route to Vienna in 1501, and again upon his return home in late 1504, Cranach must have sojourned in Nürnberg. In...

  8. 4 Workshop Wittenberg: Cranach Domestic and Entrepreneurial
    (pp. 89-118)

    Between 1510 and 1512, the well-established court painter was gaining the fame of the ancient masters, wealth beyond his needs, and the good company of the Saxon court. Such bounty, however, was no longer what his soul desired. After an eventful six years as court painter, his demanding work and often unchallenging commissions had taken a toll on the artist and the man.¹ Between 1506 and 1510, the workshop hired as many as ten assistants, both apprentices (Lehrlinge, young men in training) and journeymen (Gesellen, advanced artists). With the increased demand for Cranach art came the hiring of ancillary gold-platers,...

  9. 5 Marketing Luther
    (pp. 119-147)

    Virtually from its start, the new University of Wittenberg (founded in 1502) was destined to become a powerful magnet for students and faculty across Germany. Among the new faculty recruits in its first decade was the novice Augustinian monk Martin Luther. Eleven years Cranach’s junior and no less driven, he arrived in Wittenberg in 1508, the year in which Cranach garnered high praise from the art critics and received his serpentine family coat-of-arms from the Saxon elector. Lodging with the local Order of Augustinian Hermits, Luther taught Aristotle’s moral philosophy in the university. By 1509, he had earned a bachelor’s...

  10. 6 Gospel Art
    (pp. 148-172)

    In the aftermath of the iconoclastic controversy, Cranach and Luther collaborated on the images that would fill the Protestant churches. Both men had an interest in keeping decorative art and portraiture prominently on display. For Cranach, church art was the painter’s staple, while for Luther, art gave the gospel sermon immediacy and the church a captive audience. Addressing lay conscience in tandem, Cranach’s images and Luther’s sermons filled lay memory with the audiovisual experience of worship, thereafter to be reprised in the solitude of their own hearts and minds, after the eloquent words in church have fallen silent and the...

  11. 7 Cranach’s Women
    (pp. 173-212)

    In the aftermath of the Peasants’ War social order was slowly secured and the reformers’ long-debated theological agenda firmly set in place. In the churches altar panels were sharing the walls with new portraits of local authorities and other worthies. Luther’sPrayer BookandCatechismgained high visibility in both church and home, henceforth to be the staples of new lay piety in the developing churches and households.

    During the war and the postwar recovery demand for new altarpieces slackened. Addressing a declining revenue stream, the workshop increased its production of artworks popular with the laity in other genres. Modern...

  12. 8 Women on Top
    (pp. 213-250)

    In his painted biblical and classical stories, Cranach remembered women who acquitted themselves well in the face of challenge and peril. They are women who died at the hands of men, committed suicide out of shame for what men had done to them, and dispatched despots who threatened their tribes and dishonored their families. Cranach portrays them as having fought the good fight, holding their own against the physical powers and professional advantages of men. For any who doubted that, Cranach’s women had their stories of conquests, both sexual and homicidal, to document it.

    Devoting as much of his artwork...

  13. 9 Remembering Cranach and Luther
    (pp. 251-280)

    Upon the death of Elector John the Constant (1532), John Frederick, the last of the Wittenberg electors Cranach and Luther served, succeeded his father. He did not, however, receive his validating electoral title from the emperor until 1535, a delay caused by the formation of the Protestant Schmalkaldic League in 1531, a united front of Lutheran princes and free German cities sworn to defend the Protestant faith to the death.

    By the late 1530s, the imperial army and the new Protestant league were foreshadowing the great religious wars still to come. Led by John Frederick and the Hessian Prince Philipp,...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 281-314)
  15. Index
    (pp. 315-325)
  16. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)