CRANACH, Lucas the Elder
(b. 1472, Kronach, d. 1553, Weimar)

Triptych with the Martyrdom of St Catherine

Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

In 1504 Cranach was appointed court painter to the Elector of Saxony, Frederick the Wise, and in 1505 he settled in Wittenberg. The earliest monumental work that Cranach completed in his new office was the Triptych with St Catherine. The triptych is the first in a series of altarpieces in which the two brothers Frederick the Wise and John the Steadfast appear either in role portraits or closely associated with the saintly figures in the composition, mostly as half-length donors.

The central panel of the triptych depicts two moments of St Catherine's martyrdom, one when the lightning destroys the wheel and the other the beheading. The two equestrian men at the left are Frederic the Wise and John the Steadfast. Each side-wing represents three female saints.