CRANACH, Lucas the Elder
(b. 1472, Kronach, d. 1553, Weimar)
Oil and tempera on red beechwood, 38 x 25 cm
Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna
The panel depicts the suicide of Lucretia after she was violated by Sextus Tarquinius, the king's son. Of all secular subjects he treated, Lucas Cranach painted this subject the most frequently, in almost 40 versions. At first he showed her only rarely as a pure nude, either half- or full-length, usually, as the daughter of a Roman nobleman, she appeared in a magnificent costume. However, after about twenty years, he increasingly favoured the nude version. In these works, with their black background and floor area recalling a lunar landscape, the context of the historical-mythological event loses its significance, the nude figure taking on the abstract quality of a personification of chastity.
Here, as in other nudes by Cranach, the painter's main interest is not in the narrative but only in the female nude. This is emphasized by placing the body before a uniform black background.