Lucas Cranach the Elder
Portrait of a Lady, c. 1540
oil, tempera on panel
76 x 56.5 cm
Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Gift of Lord and Lady Gort
This fashionable portrait of an aristocratic woman confirms Lucas Cranach’s place as one of the most gifted and versatile portrait painters of his day. Offering a stunning display of wealth and status, the artist presents his sitter dressed in a richly brocaded gown, an extravagantly feathered hat, and impressive pearl-studded coiffure. It appears that Cranach may have been commissioned to depict the sitter in the popular guise of the legendary Old Testament woman Salome who, after agreeing to dance for Herod, demanded in return the severed head of John the Baptist on a charger. A radiograph of the painting reveals that the composition was significantly altered, perhaps during its production. The space directly beneath the woman’s right arm originally featured a decapitated head on an oval platter.