Law and Grace

Lucas Cranach the Elder

Lucas Cranach the Elder - Law and Grace
The painting Law and Grace (also called The Fall and Redemption of the Mankind) departs from Luther´s teaching about Justification by Faith. Cranach the Elder, his workshop, his followers as well as other artists produced numerous paintings and illustrations on this subject. Among them we can, however, find two archetypes from 1529, executed by Lucas Cranach the Elder from which the other exemplars depart: the so-called "Gothaer Typus" (castle collection Friedenstein in Gotha), the so-called "Prager Typus" - i.e. this painting. The Prague painting is symmetrically divided by a tree (a dead one on the left and a fresh green one on the right) into two halves. In the Prague version, the left part is consistently reversed to the period sub lege (Old Testament). The right part corresponds to the sub gratia (New Testament) period. The selection of the depicted scenes also corresponds to this conception: on the left is Moses on Mount Sinai, receiving the stone tablet with Jewish law; under this scene Adam and Eve stand next to the Tree of Knowledge, precipitating Man´s Fall from Grace. The centre displays an erected brass serpent. Death is symbolized by an open grave with a dead body. Although the Prophet Isaiah belongs to the outdated period sub lege, in this painting, he turns to a man seated on the divide between the two eras, and points at the Redemptor on the Cross, i.e. to the era sub gratia. From the right, John the Baptist leans towards the man. John the Baptist also symbolizes the Redemption of mankind through Christ´s sacrifice, raising his right hand to Agnus Dei. The counterpoint to the scene on Mount Sinai is Mary on Mount Zion. She is approached by a flying Christ Child with a cross, i.e. Emmanuel. In the far background, we can see the scene of the Annunciation to the shepherds, and, finally on bottom right, the scene with a Resurrected Christ trampling Death and Sin.
measurements: height 71,5 cm
width 87 cm
material: lime wood
technique: oil
inventory number: O 10732
gallery collection: Collection of Old Masters

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