Virgin and Child under an Apple Tree 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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Virgin and Child under an Apple Tree is an oil on canvas painting created around 1530. The piece is Christian art from the Northern Renaissance period. Its creator was Lucas Cranach the Elder.

He was a printmaker and German Renaissance painter around the 16th century. For most of his professional career, he was a court painter for the Electors of Saxony. Through his work, Cranach became renowned for his portraits of German princes and leaders of the Protestant Reformation. At the beginning of Cranach’s creative work, he used his talent in several forms. He created works in portraits, engravings and woodcarvings. Although most of his work was portraits and altarpieces, his ability also gave him the opportunity to design coins for the electorate.

Cranach's passion was in creating religious imagery. The religious subjects in Cranach’s work often reflected the changes of the Protestant Reformation, and its perspective of religious depictions. Early in his career, he painted many Madonna’s and made woodcuts depicting the Virgin and three saints praying in front of a crucifix. His later pieces include a series of martyrdoms, the marriage of St. Catherine, and scenes of the Passion of Christ.

This painting symbolises Christian beliefs of falling from grace and the Salvation of mankind. In the centre of the picture is a naked, infant Christ standing on the lap of the Virgin Mary. The infant is holding an apple to represent the reparation for human beings' first sin at the price of his own human life. In his other hand, the child has a piece of bread used to remember the sacrifice made by Christ giving up his own life. The Virgin Mary is sat down, her golden hair is tied back from her face but flowing over her shoulders. In the picture, she is portrayed as an Eve, who atoned the assessorial sins of mankind. The mother and child are underneath an apple tree, full of ripe fruit, ready to be picked.

The beautiful landscape in the background is characteristic of Cranach, who is a forefather of the landscape genre in Western Europe. Beyond the tree, viewers can see a serene lake and surrounding blue mountain range on the horizon. Cranach flare for colour is clear in the painting. He uses a colour-scheme which features a combination of emerald green and cold, pale blue with red and golden-yellows.