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

The Judgment of Paris

c. 1528
Oil on beech panel, 102 x 71 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Cranach was one of the most versatile artists of the Northern Renaissance, a staunch patron of the Reformation, and a close friend of Martin Luther. He painted didactic religious paintings, but he also produced his own erotic ideal of the female nude. Although his style, unlike that of Dürer, borrowed little from the Italians, he favoured mythological and classical subjects and painted the story of the Judgment of Paris many times during the course of his career.

Here the artist has chosen a German version of the story, in which Mercury presents the three goddesses - Juno, Venus, and Minerva - to Paris in a dream. Cranach signals Venus's victory by placing Cupid, her son, in the upper left, aiming in her direction as she points to him. The figures of the three women give the artist an opportunity to make a visual tour of the female nude from different perspectives.

Cranach's depiction of the subject was influenced by early prints.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 3 minutes):
Cristoph Willibald Gluck: Paride ed Elena, Paris' aria