Appel à communication : « Lucas Cranach the Younger and the Reformation of the Image » (20-22 mars 2014, Wittenberg)

On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Lucas Cranach the Younger’s (1515 – 1586) birth, numerous events will take place in 2015 to honour him. In the run-up to that year, the proposed symposium wishes to focus on the life and work of the artist. Since his father, Lucas Cranach the Elder, has been the main centre of interest of recent research and exhibitions, the aim of this conference is for the first time to delineate more precisely, and to devote proper critical attention to, the biography and oeuvre of his younger son. On this basis we hope to acquire new insights into the genesis and evolution of pictorial concepts of the Reformation within the Cranach workshop, with particular emphasis on artistic materials and methods used to deploy the paintings as persuasive agents for the new faith. As such, the symposium will make a fundamental contribution to the Reformation Decade, which is organising a thematic year in 2015 on ‘The Bible and the Image’ to mark Cranach the Younger’s anniversary.

After his training, Lucas Cranach the Younger worked in his father’s studio in Wittenberg for many years and, after 1550, he directed the workshop for more than 30 years. He was thus active in the very place from which the new concept of the image as a medium for the Reformation emanated. On the one hand, this affected religious subjects, but it also influenced other genres, such as portraiture and secular history painting. Until now, there have been no systematic investigations into Lucas Cranach the Younger’s specific contribution to Reformation iconography. Art historical research has considered him above all in relation to, or dependent on, his famous father and has hardly granted him an independent existence. According to established opinion, he emerged as an independent, but less innovative, artist only after the death of his father in 1553. However, quite a number of Cranach researchers believe that the son assumed a leading position in his father’s workshop after the untimely death of his elder brother Hans in 1537; this also manifests itself in the change of insignia from a serpent with raised bat’s wings to a serpent with lowered bird’s wings. Because of this situation, the majority of the Cranach paintings created after 1537 are attributed to him without critical reflection on the associated assumptions and consequences for the son’s oeuvre. These contradictory positions indicate an important direction for future research.

With an interdisciplinary perspective and a diverse methodological apparatus, the conference therefore aims to examine the widespread perception of the relationship between Lucas Cranach the Elder and his son Lucas Cranach the Younger, as well as the contribution of the son to workshop production; to establish the extent of continuity and changes in the workshop after 1537 and again after 1550 (or 1553) ; and to position Lucas Cranach the Younger in the contemporary network of artistic, religious, political and societal figures. In this regard, new research on iconographical, formal and stylistic specifics of Cranach works will be presented to discuss questions of form and function, aspiration and status, and meaning and ambivalence of Reformation imagery within the context of a new Reformation historiography.

The conference will concentrate on the following topics:

1. Cranach the Younger – Biography and network: technical and intellectual education; family relationships; contact to Reformers,dukes, humanists; political function in Wittenberg; a court painter or not ?

2. The workshop as the location of artistic production: relationship of master/pupil (father/son) with consideration of more recent technical examinations of paintings; comparison and difference between Lucas Cranach the Younger and his brother, Hans; the reorganisation of the working process after 1537; the meaning and consequences of the alterations to the insignia; continuity and change in the oeuvre of Cranach the Younger after becoming head of the workshop in 1550, development and characteristics until his death in 1586.

3. The Reformation of imagery (in painting): conception, production and dissemination of aesthetic innovations in the genre of religious painting (altarpieces, epitaphs etc.); changes in secular history painting, portraits and printed images (portraits of Reformers, portraits of rulers etc.) ; what was Lucas Cranach the Younger’s contribution to the development of Reformation imagery? To what extent did he continue the work of his father or develop his own? What was the relationship between text and image in the work of Cranach the Younger (text in the paintings, text over the paintings)? What new insights can be deduced for the aesthetic status and semantic structures of Reformation imagery

4. Cranach the Younger – Reconstruction of his reception: the appreciation of Cranach the Younger by following generations and his influence on them; the distinction from his father; reordering of his oeuvre based on artistic characteristics (formal, iconographical, stylistic, technical); positioning of the artist within the context of Reformation history (sacramental theological debates, image discourse,  [ecclesio-]political development etc.)


Contributions on these and related topics from the disciplines art history, artistic techniques and conservation science, history, literary studies, ecclesiastical studies etc. are welcome.

We invite you to submit a short outline of your proposed paper (c. 900 characters). The lectures should not exceed a time of 20–30 minutes. Also planned, in addition to the lecture programme, are discussion panels with experts from museums, in which the participants will outline their experiences, requirements, problems and expectations from the perspective of museum practice in short introductory statements (with respect to one of the aforementioned topics) and then address the issues together in an open discussion. We invite a response from anyone who wishes to take part in such a discussion group or suggest a topic not already listed.

Submission deadline 15 October 2013

Academic direction :
Elke Anna Werner (Freie Universität Berlin)
Gunnar Heydenreich (FH Köln/Museum, Kunstpalast Düsseldorf)
Anne Eusterschulte (Freie Universität Berlin)

Freie Universität Berlin and Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten  in Saxony-Anhalt
In cooperation with the conference (working title) „Cranach in Weimar. Der Cranachaltar in der Herderkirche und die Cranachrezeption im 19. Jahrhundert in Weimar“ („Cranach in Weimar. The Cranach Altarpiece in the Herderkirche and the reception of Cranach in 19th-century Weimar“), organised by Bettina Werche, Klassik Stiftung Weimar,  18./19.03.2014, Weimar. There will be a separate Call for Papers for that conference.

Supported by civic partnership „Wege zu Cranach“ (

Scientific committee :

Caroline Campbell (London, The National Gallery)
Daniel Hess (Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum)
Thomas Kaufmann (Göttingen, Universität)
Guido Messling (Wien, Kunsthistorisches Museum)
Norbert Michels (Dessau, Anhaltische Gemäldegalerie)
Stefan Rhein (Wittenberg Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten)
Jörg Robert (Universität Tübingen)
Joshua Waterman (Washington/New York)

Conference languages : German and English

Publication : it is planned to publish all the conference papers in the conference proceedings (2015)


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