The Passion by Lucas Cranach

The woodcuts of the Passion of Christ by Lucas Cranach

Lucas Cranach the Elder (Kronach, 1472 - Weimar, 1553) is the best example of German Renaissance painting, alongside Albrecht Dürer. When he settled in Wittenberg in 1504, serving Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, he lived close to the great events of the Reformation undertaken by the Augustinian monk Martin Luther to which he adhered sincerely, though Cranach was a peaceful man and more conciliatory. Besides being courteous painter and receiving commissions from churches and nobles and burghers, he was an engraver of topics of all kinds, but mostly religious and connected with the spirit of the Reformation. In 1507 he recorded the fourteen woodcuts of the Passion of Christ, coinciding with the release of Little Passion edited by Dürer at that time. The edition is headed by a frontispiece with the Latin inscription translated as: "Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ told with beautiful images by the painter of the Duke of Saxony, Lucas Cranach, 1509". The collection of the Abbey of Montserrat has twelve of the fourteen prints making up the complete series. They come from the bequest of architect Xavier Busquets, who probably acquired them in Basel with some other artistic works that are in the Museum of Montserrat. Prints 1 and 2 are missing, which tell the Jesus’ prayer in the garden and the imprisonment of Jesus. These xylographs are made with an array of 24.7 x 17.2 cm., stamped two by two in sheets of 31.2 x 38.7 cm. We have not figured out, because they are unknown even in academia, whether they belong to an upcoming edition to the princes edition, but it is an issue before the seventeenth or eighteenth century, because some sheets show traces of handwriting of this time.