Portrait of a Young Lady holding a Finger Fern

Lucas Cranach the Elder (school)

Lucas Cranach the Elder (school) - Portrait of a Young Lady holding a Finger Fern
The clothing and jewellery told us about the social status of the figures portrayed. According to this it is possible to assume that the young lady in this picture belonged to the high aristocracy or the richest patrician stratum. The dark red dress (velvet?) is decorated with embroidery with pearls and gold and around her shoulders hangs an elaborate gold chain. At first glance one is attracted by the absent, spiritless, unfocussed gaze depicted. Attention is drawn to the pale and sombre face, which contrasts with the colourfulness and decorativeness of the expensive clothes and jewellery. The sense of this portrait can be deciphered, however, with the aid of botany: the key to understanding undoubtedly lies in the plant the lady portrayed is holding in her left hand - it is a fern, evidently the spleenwort or rusty-back fern. Similarly to the Rose of Jericho (honeysuckle) this fern is outstanding due to special, today half-forgotten properties: in a drought its leaves roll up and turn brown, but is it is watered, it becomes green again. This is therefore a clear symbol of resurrection, reflecting the "reviving" ability of this fern. The portrait therefore most probably fulfilled a commemorative function. This also explains the above-mentioned absent gaze - this was a posthumous depiction, not a portrait taken from reality.
measurements: height 50 cm
width 36 cm
material: wood
technique: oil
inventory number: O 8668
gallery collection: Collection of Old Masters