Place: Sternberg Palace
Lucas Cranach at the Šternberk Palace of the National Gallery in Prague Vít Vlnas, director of The Old Collection,Olga Kotková, curator of the Collection of Old Masters of the National Gallery in Prague, and Petr Kuthan, Head of the Restoration Department of the National Gallery in Prague, presented the newly restored double-sided panel with the paintings “Blessing Child Jesus, and Suffering Christ (around 1520)” on each side, respectively, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, one of the major German Renaissance artists. Jiřina Kábrtová, Director of the Ostrava Museum where the double-sided panel had been exhibited at the world’s premiere, also participated in the press conference. The artwork had been restored in the restoration workshops of the National Gallery in Prague and has been displayed since March 4 in the Šternberk Palace on Hradčanské Square in Prague next to Dürer’s Feast of the Rosary dated 1506.
The National Gallery in Prague houses some twenty panel paintings which can be linked with Lucas Cranach the Elder and his workshop. The majority of these paintings are on display in the Gallery premises but some remain hidden in the repository, like the double-sided panel with Blessing Child Jesus and Suffering Christ was. The painting may have originally served for private devotion. Both themes – Blessing Child Jesus with a cross and Suffering Christ – were popular during the Protestant Reformation which put an emphasis on the role of Jesus as a Redeemer from hereditary sin.
The panel was not displayed for many decades as its bad condition did not make it possible. For the same reason, it was not even shown at the large exhibition of Lucas Cranach at the Prague Castle in 2005. After that exhibition, the National Gallery in Prague decided to restore the artwork in cooperation with the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. When the demanding restoration was completed, the National Gallery in Prague loaned the painting with seven others by Lucas Cranach and his circle to the Ostrava Museum under strict security measures. The exhibition in Ostrava was a huge success and visitor attendance record. For this reason, too, the National Gallery in Prague decided to show the double-sided panel to the audience in Prague.
The painting Blessing Baby Jesus also serves to attract attention to a planned exhibition with the working title “Lucas Cranach’s paintings in a laboratory” which the National Gallery in Prague prepares in cooperation with foreign partners. The Ostrava and Prague audience’s curiosity in Cranach’s work is not surprising. On the contrary, we can say that a kind of Cranachmania has engulfed Europe in recent years. Exhibitions of his artworks were held in Frankfurt am Main, London, Brussels, Paris and Rome (the National Gallery in Prague loaned its paintings to most of these displays). Cranach’s artworks win visitors’ hearts as their themes are charming, seemingly simple, attractive and often rendered humorously. The personality of Lucas Cranach the Elder is also appealing because he was remarkably successful in his time. He was a skilful painter, leader of a large workshop, “entrepreneur” and socialite – among others, he was friends with Martin Luther, a seminal figure of the German Reformation. His close relationship with Luther, however, did not prevent Cranach from working for the staunch opponent of Luther’s teaching Albert, Duke of Prussia. Cranach succeeded in what was unattainable for most – his work was much demanded and highly evaluated during his lifetime and still is today, five hundred years later.
All paintings of Cranach deposited in the National Gallery in Prague are included in the book The National Gallery in Prague: German and Austrian Painting of the 14th-16th Centuries.
Press release on March 4, 2014
Contact for journalists:
Eva Kolerusová, spokeswoman of the National Gallery in Prague
tel.: 00420 724 501 535