Work Dead hind, the four limbs extended, and hind's head
Department of Prints and Drawings: 16th century
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Une biche morte, les quatre membres étendus et une tête de biche
Prints and Drawings
Presumably drawn from direct observation, this meticulous study shows a dead hind, limbs extended and ears raised, the head in profile. The tactile rendering of flesh, muscle, fur, and eye, in which even the tearpit is finely detailed, led to it being attributed to Dürer. In his analytical approach and use of an uncommon technique, Cranach follows in the footsteps of the German Renaissance master.
A court painter
The early years of Cranach's life are veiled in obscurity, and it is only from 1504 onward that his career is better documented. It was then that he left Vienna for Wittenberg, to join the court of Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony (1463-1525), and his brother, Duke John the Constant (1468-1532). In 1505, Cranach succeeded the Italian Jacopo de' Barabari as court painter, serving first Frederick, then John, and finally John-Frederick the Magnanimous (1503-1554). From then until John-Frederick's being taken prisoner by Emperor Charles V in 1547, Cranach produced hunting scenes and allegories for his princely patrons.
At the hunt ...
In a 1509 letter to Cranach, the humanist Christoph Scheurl (1481-1542) celebrated the artist's ceaseless artistic activity: "Whenever the princes take you out hunting, you take a panel with you everywhere, which you complete in the midst of the hunt, showing Frederick killing a stag or John chasing a wild boar." For this drawing, Cranach used gouache and watercolor, a technique he rarely employed for his animal studies. The verso, on the other hand, has a study more typical of his work, with a number of rapid sketches of stags and hinds in pen and brown ink, some fighting, some grazing, and one pair mating.
... and elsewhere
Cranach used such animal studies and sketches from nature in many of his works: in 1515, for example, when he contributed to the marginal illustrations of the Book of Hours of the Emperor Maximilian (1459-1519). There he was in competition with Dürer, Baldung Grien, Burgkmair, Breu, and Altdorfer. He chose animal subjects, mostly depicting hinds, but also elk, foxes, monkeys, and storks, as well as a castle in a landscape and various religious motifs. Finally, in a 1529 painting, Cranach portrayed Maximilian, who had died in 1519; and Frederick, elector of Saxony, who died in 1525, and his successor, John the Constant, out hunting together. It was thus both a commemorative work and yet another of his many hunting scenes, which were often given as presents.
BibliographyA. Tacke, Cranach Meisterwerke auf Vorrat : die Erlanger Handzeichnungen der Universitätsbibliothek, cat. exp. Erlangen-Nuremberg, Universitätsbibliothek ; Halle, Staatliche Galerie Moritzburg ; Augsbourg, Universitätsbibliothek, 1994-1995.
E. Starcky, in Dessins de Dürer et de la Renaissance germanique, cat. exp. Paris, musée du Louvre, 1991-1992, p. 121, n 113.
D. Koepplin, in Dürer, Holbein, Grünewald : Meisterzeichnungen der deutschen Renaissance aus Berlin und Basel, cat. exp. Bâle, Kunstmuseum ; Berlin, Staatlichen Museen, 1997-1998, pp. 246-261, n 17.1.1-17.5.
D. Koepplin, in From Schongauer to Holbein. Master Drawings from Basel and Berlin, cat. exp. Washington, National Gallery of Art, 1999-2000, pp. 197-211, n 86-91.
K. Poulsen, Cranach, cat. exp. Copenhague, Statens Museum for Kunst, 2002.
Lucas Cranach the Elder (Cranach, 1472-Weimar, 1553)
Dead hind, the four limbs extended, and hind's head
Pen and brown ink, watercolor wash, white highlights
H. 20 cm; W. 28.4 cm
Sale at Christie's, London, 1909 (?); Neyman Collection; purchased from the latter on January 18, 1909
Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.
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