Johannes Cuspinian Lucas Cranach Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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This painting is a portrait of Dr Johannes Cuspinian and is loosely dated at somewhere between 1502 and 1503.

The style of this artwork is highly typical of its creator - Lucas Cranach the Elder. He was a renowned portrait painter who served as a court artist for a number of years. During this period he would receive many notable commissioned artworks which helped to establish his artistic legacy, though he was also skilled in other genres besides just portraiture. This particular painting is relatively small, sizes at around half a metre tall and wide, give or take the variations necessary of the portrait format. The scholar himself is dressed smartly, reflecting his importance in society, whilst in the background the artist displays his talents in producing eye catching landscapes, which in this case is dotted across the top right of the overall composition.

Cuspinian was a humanist from Vienna and also a member of the court of Emperor Maximilian I. Cranach produced a number of portraits to celebrate various marriages and it is believed that this painting is one of a pair of portraits, with the other capturing his betroved, Anna. The clue to this is that the landscape continues seamlessly into her portrait, just as the artist intended. Why would he produce a pair of portraits rather than putting the two figures together? That is not clear. It may have been an artistic decision, or possibly more of a logistical decision - it is always hard to conclude anything nowadays, with many centuries having passed since the artworks were commissioned and completed.

This memorable piece can be found in the Oskar Reinhart Collection in Winterthur, which is a city in Switzerland located northeast of Zurich. The Swiss nation ultimately owns this group of work which is now housed in a former residence of Reinhart himself. Besides a number of pieces by Cranach, you can also find some other famous names represented there such as Théodore Géricault, Jean-François Millet, Gustave Courbet, Camille Pissarro, Matthias Grünewald and Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The collector himself clearly had a good eye as well as some significant funds in order to put such an impressive collection of artworks together, particularly as a number of these artists would already have commanded high prices by the time at which he acquired some of their paintings. Others would have been chosen more on potential promise before later on displaying their worth after his passing.