Law and Gospel 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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Law and Gospel is one of Cranach's religiously-themed paintings and captures two key concepts of Protestant teachings. The artwork is dated around circa 1529, at which point the artist would have been aged 57.

There is a lot of detail to absorb from this painting, with the wide canvas filled from top to bottom with a combination of landscape and figurative portraits. The larger image of the artwork below also reveals a large amount of scripture below the main artwork, and it is also important to examine this too in order to truly understand each element of the composition. The painting offers several different symbolic displays of Lutheran values together, almost like an early cartoon. We can appreciate each by browsing from left to right across the painting. Cranach himself was a close friend of Martin Luther and used his own workshop to produce large amounts of depictions of him in order to help promote the work of this key religious figure.

Research has linked this painting to several other earlier versions, suggesting that the theme we find here was worked on several times by the artist. They also exist in Gotha, Germany and another at the National Gallery in Prague. They would also make use of these images in other mediums too, such as sculpture, woodcuts and even furniture. The workshop itself was varied in output, with a number of broadly skilled assistants brought in in order to allow Cranach to promote his brand to as wide an audience as possible. He had initially been restricted to members of the court in which he worked but he would soon branch out to attact other member of high society in his local region as well as taking on considerable amounts of work in support of his friend, Martin Luther.

Law and Gospel are the themes of the two sides to this artwork. It remains at the Herzogliches Museum, Gotha, Germany and measures a total of 82.2 cm tall and 118 cm wide. In this sense, it may remind some of the work of Netherlandish artist, Hieronymus Bosch, who produced a number of triptychs where each panel would represent a different element of his overall message. These included classic artworks such as The Garden of Earthly Delights, The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things and also The Last Judgement. Cranach himself was conscious to avoid the imagery being too dominant over scripture and this was also a continued concern of Martin Luther, although he was generally very supportive of his friend's work.

Law and Gospel in Detail Lucas Cranach