CRANACH, Lucas the Elder
(b. 1472, Kronach, d. 1553, Weimar)
Portrait of Dr. Johannes Cuspinian (detail)c. 1502
Oil on wood
Oskar Reinhart Collection, Winterthur
The picture shows a detail of the background at right.
The nine women appear to be the nine Muses, who were answerable, according to Greek myth, to their leader Apollo, who has been identified as the figure behind the tree at the left of the picture. Their element is water. A balance is intended here to the fire behind Anna Cuspinian. Perhaps this polarity symbolises the distinction between the genders: according to Plutarch, fire was the male element, water the female.