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

Reclining Water Nymph

Oil and tempera on limewood, 58 x 87 cm
Jagdschloss Grunewald, Berlin

One of Cranach's most consequential pictorial inventions is that of the water nymph. For the first time in painting north of the Alps an artist was depicting female nudes in an open-air setting. In doing so he was drawing on a development which had already began in Italy with Giorgione's Pastoral Concert and Sleeping Venus.

The subject of a nude in a landscape was very popular in Cranach's lifetime, and at least fourteen versions from the Cranach workshop survive. The earliest dated example is in Leipzig. A common feature of all versions is the Latin inscription introducing the figure to the viewer: "I the nymph of the holy spring am resting; do not disturb my sleep."