… absorbing and thought provoking …

rings gloves costume

Who isn’t beguiled by Cranach? His sinuous, other worldly women and big nosed men in their sumptuous clothes and fine jewels, proclaiming virtuous Protestant realism alongside outrageous mercantile display.  Just look at this costume detail from Portrait of a Woman, c.1525-7. The white fingers are slashed so everyone can see the lady can afford to wear rings beneath as well as over her gloves.

And how about this fabulous headdress?  – from Portrait of a Lady and her Son, c.1510-40.

costume Northern Renaissance

This excellent show features work by Lucas Cranach the Elder and his workshop – and demonstrates why I love Compton Verney’s approach so much: choice pieces clearly presented with intelligent context. The exhibition includes portraits, prints, books and pamphlets all selected to give a flavour of the man and his times. Cranach was a wine seller, printer, and thrice mayor of Wittenberg as well as being a painter. His close friendship with Martin Luther led to his Cranach-Doring Press playing a pivotal role in the Protestant Reformation.

And yet it’s the details I love so much, like Cranach‘s emblem which I had fun spotting around the exhibition in various guises. It’s an extraordinary crowned and winged serpent holding a ruby ring in its mouth. Awarded to the artist by his employer, Frederick the Wise, the Elector of Saxony.serpent emblem renaissance

Cranach‘s work is followed by a thought provoking selection of modern art inspired by his work.  There are a couple of fine Picassos including this lovely linocut on paper from the Tate:  Portrait of a Woman after Cranach the Younger, 1958.Picasso portrait

And the extraordinary kinetic and self destructing fibreglass figure of  St Apollonia, 2013, by Michael Landy. Disturbing the contemplative peace of the gallery, the poor girl hits her face with her instrument of torture, tooth pliers, every time a foot pedal is pressed.  Ouch.

Landy St Apollonia

The exhibition, Cranach: Artist and Innovator, in association with The National Gallery, runs until  Sunday 14 June 2020 (Tue – Fri 11am – 4pm; Weekends – 11am – 5pm) and is most definitely worth a visit.

If you haven’t been to Compton Verney before, I urge you to go.   The exhibition space, permanent exhibitions and park are a delight and make a great day out for both art fiends, nature lovers and families.  There’s a lovely cafe, an adventure playground for children, and boardwalks and pond dipping around the lake.  Click here to be directed to their website.

The companion exhibition Fabric: Touch and Identity curated with Professor Alice Kettle (Manchester Metropolitan University) and Professor Lesley Millar (University for the Creative Arts) is definitely worth is visit too.

Portrait of a Woman, c.1525-7, Lucas Cranach the Elder, National Gallery

Portrait of a Lady and her Son, c.1510-40, Lucas Cranach the Elder and Workshop, HM the Queen

Portrait of a Woman after Cranach the Younger, 1958, Picasso, Tate

St Apollonia, 2013, Michael Landy, Private Collection