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

Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon

c. 1550
Oil on pine panel, 63 x 49 cm
Private collection

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.

Melanchthon had his portrait painted on numerous occasions, but he only sat to four artists: Albrecht Dürer (in an engraving of 1526); Hans Holbein the Younger (whose portrait of circa 1535 is in the Niedersächsisches Landesmuseums, Hannover); and both Lucas Cranach the Elder and his son Lucas Cranach the Younger.

Cranach the Younger painted several portraits of Melanchthon, probably from the mid 1540s onwards. The earliest would seem to be that dated 1544, in Östra Ryd, Sweden, and the last painted from life is that signed and dated 1559 in the Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, finished just one year before Melanchthon's death at the age of 63. Such was the demand for portraits of Luther and Melanchthon that several posthumous works were produced by Cranach the Younger and his studio.