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Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) and workshop

Portrait of a Lady and her Son c.1510-40

Oil on panel | 53.0 x 38.4 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 403373

King's Dressing Room, Windsor Castle

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  • For years, the Royal Collection's double portrait of an Electress and her Son received little attention. Given as a Christmas present from Prince Albert to Queen Victoria in 1840, the pair has a stylised, abtract quality: the Electress, stiff in her spiky finery gives her hand to be squeezed by the corpulent young Prince who stares at the viewer with buttery vacancy and a canine cock of the head. The picture was thought to be the work of Franz Wolfgang Rohrich (1787-1834), a well-known nineteenth-century imitator of Lucas Cranach who painted over forty versions of this particular painting alone. The composition of mother and son has an intimacy which was thought to have been Rohrich's own invention and uncharacteristic of Cranach's sixteenth-century style.

    The consensus remained until Royal Collection Trust conservators and curators collaborated with Cranach specialists at the Technical University of Cologne to undertake new technical research. A highly skilled preparatory drawing bearing all the hallmarks of Cranach's style was revealed under the paint layers. Taken with other technical evidence this was enough to convince the experts of its attribution to Cranach, not just as a minor studio version but the prime original. Following this exciting discovery the painting was cleaned and conserved in time for unveiling at the major exhibition at the Düsseldorf Kunstpalast Cranach der Alterer: Meister Marke Moderne (2017).

    Provenance

    Given to Prince Albert by Queen Victoria, Christmas 1840. Prince Albert's acquisitions (27). Rough Catalogue No 24

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on panel

    Measurements

    53.0 x 38.4 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    85.0 x 71.0 x 11.5 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    Electress and her son

    Electress Sibilla of Saxony and her son

    Sybilla of Cleves, wife of John Frederick, Duke of Saxony, and her Son