Cranach and the Veste Coburg

In August 1506 Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553) was invited to accompany the Elector of Saxony on a six-month hunting camp in his capacity as painter to the Saxon Court. He stayed at the Veste Coburg and accompanied the princes on their hunts, producing a range of masterful woodcuts which featured hunting motifs and other themes in the course of this year. The Veste Coburg features in two of these woodcuts, and Cranach even decorated the fortress’s banqueting hall, known as the Große Hofstube or Great Court Chamber, with his murals. Today these murals are brought back to life in a small media installation. In this media installation, visitors can also browse through a digital copy of the tournament book belonging to John Frederick I, the Elector of Saxony, which features 146 illustrations by Cranach’s workshop from 1534 to 1535.

Cranach’s stay at the Veste Coburg, which was very fruitful from an artistic point of view, proved to be an important stage in Cranach’s early career as a court painter. Whilst his famous murals, hailed by contemporaries for their acute realism, may be gone, portraits of the elector and his brother remain. Painted around 1515, these paintings were probably part of the altar in the Veste Coburg Church.

Today the Veste Coburg houses approximately 33 paintings by Cranach and his workshop. Around 30 of these works, which depict both secular and religious motifs, are on display at three locations in the Veste Coburg: in Luther’s Rooms, the reformer’s lodgings in 1530; in the lounge of the last ruling Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, previously known as the Cranach Room due to its décor; and above all, in the recently reinstalled collection of Old German Art. Located in the “Steinerne Kemenate” or Stone Chamber, this permanent exhibition presents Cranach within the context of the art of his period.

Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515–1586) is also represented through five of his works, which include a highly idiosyncratic interpretation of “The Ill-Matched Couple” dating from 1540 and two life-size portraits of Martin Luther and George III, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau. Cranach the Younger had adapted the full-figure portrait genre, previously reserved for princes, to include the likenesses of reformers.

Cranach’s Court Chamber

A small media showcase in the Court Chamber (Hofstube) reminds visitors of Cranach’s visit to the Veste. You can also browse a digital version of the tournament book belonging to Elector Johann Friedrich I of Saxony featuring 146 images from the Cranach workshop from 1534/35.

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