Paris exhibition aims to restore Cranach’s image

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Paris exhibition aims to restore Cranach’s image


The 1537 painting “Allegory of Justice.” [AP]

PARIS - Like an enterprising Andy Warhol of the 16th century, German Renaissance master Lucas Cranach the Elder produced multiple paintings of the same subject, churning out strikingly similar versions of his trademark soft-edged nudes and angel-faced Madonnas. This penchant for repetition did nothing for Cranach’s reputation, and for centuries he was overshadowed by another giant of German art, Albrecht Durer.

A new exhibition at Paris’ Musee du Luxembourg aims to restore Cranach’s image by highlighting his unique, velvety style and showing how the artist - the official painter for the Saxon court of Wittenberg and a friend of reformer Martin Luther - reacted to the tumult of his epoch.

Opening on Feb. 7, “Cranach and his Times” includes 50 paintings and engravings of his perennial subjects, Adam and curvaceous Eve at the apple tree, Madonnas with chubby Christ children and even chubbier cherubs, reclining nymphs swathed in the sheerest of silks. Cranach’s nudes exude the painter’s signature mixture of chastity and carnal sensuousness.

“When you look at the paintings, you as a spectator are attracted to the beauty of the nudes .?.?. but at the same time, you’re being pushed away,” the show’s curator, Guido Messling, told The Associated Press in an interview. “This ambiguity plays an important role in Cranach’s work.”

The exhibition includes one of Cranach’s best-known nudes, “Allegory of Justice,” a 1537 work that features a bow-lipped blond brandishing a sword in one hand and a balance in the other.

Though he never painted exact reproductions of the same painting, he “was a businessman” who for commercial reasons often expedited several very similar works, Messling said. The Paris show includes a handful of portraits of ancient Rome’s legendary Lucretia, as well as allegories of charity and other virtues. The show runs through May 23.

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