Cranach’s Cupid (c.1530)

A fragment of a larger painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder depicts Cupid holding one arrow as his attribute. Whatever the subject of the missing piece we can identify Cupid as “the painter” not only because arrows so often substitute for a paintbrush1 but because…..

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Captions for image(s) above:

Cranach the Elder, Cupid, a fragment, (c.1530) Oil on panel. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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…..Cupid stands on a plinth directly above Cranach’s monogram, a winged serpent. Cupid must be "Cranach".    

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Captions for image(s) above:

Cranach the Elder, Cupid (detail)

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In addition, Cupid shares two of Cranach's facial features. His left eye is raised like Cranach’s in an earlier self-portrait and the line of their mouths are both serpentine. The fusion of their features further strengthens the claim that Cupid represents the artist because face fusion is a method widely used by portraitists for the same purpose.2

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Captions for image(s) above:

Left: Cranach, Detail of Cupid, rotated
Right: Self-Portrait detail from Cranach, The Beheading of St. John the Baptist (1515)

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The placement of Cupid’s hand is yet further evidence. It signals that craft (symbolized by the hand) must be combined with intelligence (forehead) and imagination (eyes) to create poetry.3 Given how in another image of similar subject matter, a woodcut, Cranach's Cupid uses an arrow/burin to engrave Venus the meaning here seems irrefutable: Cupid represents “Cranach”.

Captions for image(s) above:

Cranach the Elder, Cupid (detail)

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Notes:

1. See Brush and Palette 
2. See Portraiture
3. See Hand and Eye

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 06 Feb 2011. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.