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

The Martyrdom of St Barbara

c. 1510
Oil on linden panel, 152 x 135 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Saint Barbara was a Christian saint and martyr who died at Nicomedia in today's Turkey c. 306 C.E. She won particular fame for the horrifying fact that her death sentence by beheading was carried out by her own father, a wealthy pagan who had first isolated her in a tower and then denounced her to the Roman authorities when she became a Christian. Her death was attended by numerous miracles, most impressively her father being struck dead by lightning after killing her.

Cranach's painting shows a luxuriously dressed Barbara kneeling before her father, who raises his sword to behead her.