Sunday, November 20, 2016


By Ernest & Gregory Disney-Britton
"Charity" (1537-50) by Lucas Cranach the Elder
How charitable are you? In the 16th century, Lucas Cranach the Elder depicted Christian charity as a naked and smiling young mother to remind Christians that charity should be as natural as motherhood. In this painting, one in a series, a woman is breastfeeding a baby with two other children by her sides. It appears joyfilled and effortless, and is part of Cranach's visual vocabulary for the Protestant Reformation. On Thanksgiving, we will give thanks for what we've received, but we should also reflect on what we give. In Luke 6:38  Jesus said: "Give, and it will be given to you.... The way you give to others is the way you will receive in return." [listen]

What is Cranach's visual vocabularly for the Reformation? In general, such art avoided grand images of Jesus and his mother Mary. It downplayed the Saints and depictions of clergy. Reformation art focused on humble depictions of biblical scenes and moralistic depictions of contemporary everyday life. Charity was a favorite morality lesson for Lucas Cranach the Elder but you can discover others this year in two major U.S. shows: “Martin Luther: Art and the Reformation,” at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and “Renaissance and Reformation: German Art in the Age of Dürer and Cranach” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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    Lucas Cranach the Elder, “Mary with Child and Wine grapes,” 1520, Oil on panel, 57 x 34 cm (COURTESY: SKD)