Det “ægte” og det “uægte” værk. Lucas Cranach den Ældres kunstpraksis og de kvaler, den har forvoldt kunsthistorien

  • Hanne Kolind Poulsen

Resumé

The Question of Originality. Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Artistic Practice and the Quandaries Thereby Unleashed on Art History

It has been fundamental to art history to find out which artists produced what art works. Enormous research efforts have been devoted to identifying the “true images”, the genuine Rafaels, Rembrandts, Picassos, etc. And at the least it remains an important part of the more traditional art historical profession. In the article, I intend to address and discuss this concept of a “true image”, realizing that in former times it appears that it was not equally essential to identify the artist persona that posterity has so persistently insisted on establishing. For this purpose, I have chosen the example of German renaissance artist Lucas Cranach the Elder. His workshop practice, which in its relative extremity was actually quite ordinary for the time, provides an exemplary illustration of the problems that this type of artistic activity has produced for (traditional) art history. Attribution debates have dominated Cranach research from the beginning of the nineteenth century until today. But even on the basis of modern technical examinations, it has proven impossible to convincingly determine exactly who produced a given Cranach work: a skilled assistant, one of the Cranach sons, or Cranach the Elder himself? I address the question of why art historians nonetheless have insisted on trying to do so. I suggest a departure from the endless discussion and instead to consider Cranach not primarily as a painter, but  as the creative force of the workshop – that is, the one who produced the designs for the works, provided and developed the techniques of execution to make the works’ aesthetic stable and easy to copy, organized the work and politics of the workshop, and, not least, attracted the customers. How much and what he actually painted himself thus becomes a question of less importance. 

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