Lucas Cranach – Apollo And Diana

Like Mantegna’s, Cranach’s later works show the mellowing influence of Renaissance paganism. In both cases, the change is not wholly for the better. Agonizing Crucifixions (like the two at Munich), done in intricate Gothic line-patterns or in strong plain colors, give way to pert, mischievous little Venuses, naughtily naked in a velvet hat or a string of beads. As representation, the latter may be more amusing; but the designs in general grow weaker. The coloring becomes hard and drab; the figures are brittle imitations of sculpture; the strong fine line gives way to a facile decorative grace reminiscent of Botticelli’s, but often monotonous and formalized.

The picture reproduced here is a fairly well-balanced mean between the two extremes. As color it is completely dead, but its line is still alive, to weave the forms of girl and stag, man and bow, into a delightful melody of intertwining curves. The fresh, unsymmetrical pattern they describe, of a large triangle on its side, is echoed in thebackground masses. To the figures’ sculptural clarity, they contrast the soft feathery depths of a German primitive landscape, like those of Altdorfer. The faces and bodies are not Italianate, but realistically German in a naive, dainty way, much less rugged than those of Durer.