Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon, Lucas Cranach the Younger
Lucas Cranach the Younger
Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon
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Lucas Cranach the Younger

Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon, 1559

81.6 x 62.3 x min. 2.2 cm
maximum depth
2.2 cm
Physical Description
Mixed technique on wood
Inventory Number
SG 349
Acquired in 1906 as a gift from Max Michaelis to the city of Frankfurt am Main
Not on display


About the Work

These companion portraits of the two Wittenberg reformators Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon were reunited in the Städel in 2010. The lively modelling of their faces exemplifies the superb painting skills of Lucas Cranach the Younger. The portraits not only needed to portray the sitters in a lifelike manner, however, but also to depict their accomplishments. For this the artist arrived at an original solution. Both reformers display their writings to the viewer – Luther’s in German and Melanchthon’s in Latin and Greek. The two figures were also characterized in different and interesting ways. While Luther appears to nearly burst the picture frame with the considerable bulk of his body, Melanchthon seems comparatively fragile and, moreover, entirely attuned to Luther’s dominating form.

About the Acquisition

In 1906 the City of Frankfurt received a gift from England. Maximilian Michaelis (b. 1852), a native of Thuringia, presented this painting by Cranach, which he owned, to the museum. Michaelis, who lived in Trandridge Court, Surrey, between 1896 and 1919, was also a most generous patron of the arts in his adoptive country of South Africa, where he became very wealthy through the diamond trade. He made gifts to museums in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Kimberley, and it was in South Africa that he was given a knighthood in 1924. Michaelis traced the roots of his love of art, and especially the Old Masters, to his schooldays in Nuremberg.

Audio & Video

  • Basic information
  • Focus on religion
  • KunstIStück – Lucas Cranach d. J.: Martin Luther & Philipp Melanchton
    Sammlungshighlights des Städel Museums in unterhaltsamen und informativen Filmen – das sind die Kunst|Stücke. Entdecken Sie spannende Details zu Kunstwerken aus ungewöhnlichen Blickwinkeln in unter zwei Minuten. Mehr zu den Werken von Lucas Cranach d. J. erfahren Sie hier: https://sammlung.staedelmuseum.de/de/werk/bildnis-martin-luthers-1483-1546#yt https://sammlung.staedelmuseum.de/de/werk/bildnis-philipp-melanchthons-14971560#yt

Work Data

Basic Information

Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon
Period Produced
Object Type
Physical Description
Mixed technique on wood
Label at the Time of Manufacture
Datiert oben rechts: 1559, darunter das Schlangenzeichen mit angelegten Flügeln und Ring im Maul
Der Text auf der Verso-Seite des Buchs ist ein Auszug aus der Predigt über die Demut (Betrachtung zu 1 Kor 1,30) von Basilius dem Großen: Λέγει δὲ ὁ ἀπόστολος, ὁ καυχώμεν-/ος ἐν κυϱίῳ καυχάσθω, λέγων, / ὅτι χϱιστὸς ἡμῖν ἐγενήθη σοϕία / ἀπὸ θεοῦ, δικαιοσύνη τε καί ἁγιασ-/μὸς καὶ ἀπολύτϱωσις, ἵνα καθὼς /
γέγϱαπται ὁ καυχώμενος ἐν κυ-/ϱίῳ καυχάσθω, αὐτὴ γὰϱ δὴ ἡ / τελεία καὶ ὁλόκληϱος καύχησις / ἐν θεῷ, ὅτε μήτε ἐπὶ δικαιoσύνῃ / τιϛ ἐπαίϱεται τῇ ἑαυτοῦ, ἀλλὰ / ἔγνωμεν ἐνδεῆ ὄντα δικαιοσύνηϛ / ἀληθοῦϛ ἑαυτ᾽, πίστει δὲ μόνῃ τῇ / εἰϛ χϱιστὸν δεδικαώμενον.
Am unteren Rand der Verso-Seite innen: ANNO 1559
Der Text der Recto-Seite des Buchs ist ein Gedicht Melanchthons, das er seit 1553 des öfteren als Buchinschrift verwendete: Nullius est foelix conatus et utilis unq[uam] / Consilium si non detq[ue] iuvetq[ue] Deus / Tunc iuvat ille aute[m], cum mens sibi [con]sciarecti, / Mandati officij munera iusta facit. / Et simul auxiliu[m] praesenti a numine Christi / Poscit, et expectat non dubitante fide. / Sic procedet opus faustum populisq[ue] tibiq[ue] / Diriget et cursus aura secunda tuos. / Invictamq[ue] Dei dextram vis nulla rep[ellet] / Omnia cogentur cedere prona D[eo] / Ipsa etiam qua[m]vis Adamanti incis[a feruntur] / Cum petimus cedunt fata severa Deo. / Nec Deus est nume[n] Parcaru[m] carcere clausum, / Quale putabatur Stoicus esse Deus. / Ipse potest Solis currus inhibere volantes, / Ipse velut scopulos flumina stare iubet. / Ω Λόγε gnate Dei nostris in me[n]tib[us] adsis, /
Et flatu accendas pectora nostra tuo.

Property and Acquisition

Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Picture Copyright
Public Domain
Acquired in 1906 as a gift from Max Michaelis to the city of Frankfurt am Main

Work Content

Motifs and References

Main Motif
Persons Shown
Associated Persons and Institutions


  • 61B2(MELANCHTHON, Philipp)11(+52) historical person (MELANCHTHON, Philipp) - historical person (MELANCHTHON, Philipp) portrayed alone (+ (MELANCHTHON, Philipp) bust portrait)
  • 49MM32 book - MM - book open
  • 11L6 books, treatises, etc. ~ Christian doctrine and religion

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