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

St Maurice

Oil on linden panel, 135 x 38 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Saint Maurice was an Egyptian, born in AD 250 in Thebes. He was the leader of the legendary Roman Theban Legion in the 3rd century, and one of the favourite and most widely venerated saints of that group. He was the patron saint of several professions, locales, and kingdoms. The cult of St Maurice, most widespread in the late Middle Ages, was first associated with the royal house of Burgundy and thereafter with Saxon and Ottonian kings. One of the main centres for the veneration of St Maurice was the eastern German city of Halle. From 1484 to 1503, during the rule of Archbishop Ernst of Wettin, the Moritzburg, the seat of the ruler, was built in Halle. Albrecht, Archbishop of Magdeburg, made the Moritzburg his main residence. He was a great patron of art, and from 1520 to 1525 he commissioned sixteen altarpieces from Lucas Cranach and his workshop; these exist today only in a fragmentary state.

This panel was probably part of a multipanel altarpiece which in closed state could comprise four very narrow panels with two each for the right and left wings. The remainder of this altarpiece has not been identified and may no longer exist.

The panel was executed with the contribution of the workshop. Its prototype was the Reliquary of St Maurice, known from an illustration in the Hallesches Heiltumsbuch.