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

Portrait of a Jurist

Oil and tempera on wood, 54 x 39 cm
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

According to an inscription added later to the back of the painting, the sitter of this portrait is Johann Stephan Reuss (died 1514), rector of the University of Vienna. The pendant of this painting, representing the jurist's wife, is in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg. However, this later information is misleading, since the statutes of the University of Vienna state that the rector has to remain single. To judge from his costume, the sitter is certainly an academic, probably a jurist.

Husband and wife are each flanked a sprouting and a dying tree. Significantly, the two healthy trees face each other, seen on the inner sides of the pendants when hung together. Their emblematic message suggests that only in each other's presence may this couple flourish.