CRANACH, Lucas the Younger
(b. 1515, Wittenberg, d. 1586, Weimar)

Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon

Oil and tempera on wood, transferred to canvas and mounted on a modern support, 82 x 61 cm
Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt

Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560) was a German reformer, collaborator with Martin Luther, the first systematic theologian of the Protestant Reformation, intellectual leader of the Lutheran Reformation, and an influential designer of educational systems. He stands next to Luther and Calvin as a reformer, theologian, and molder of Protestantism.

This portrait was completed one year before his death and reproduced in numerous variants. It shows the scholar as a monumental half-length figure in three-quarter profile facing to the viewer's left against a neutral pale grey background. The open book turned towards the viewer shows two quite different texts: on the left a quotation in ancient Greek from the homilies of the Church Father Basil the Great, while the right-hand page contains a poem in Latin by Melanchthon himself. This is not a real book, the two texts would never had appeared together in the same volume.