Princess Sybille

Thanks–again–to Paul McCain at Cyberbrethren for keeping up with the Lucas Cranach boom. This achingly lovely portrait of Princess Sybille of Cleves is on sale for $4-$6 million.

Princess Sybille, by Cranach

And Paul quotes from the catalog description. Here is just a sampling of what it says about this young woman, a true saint of the Reformation:

This portrait of Princess Sybille of Cleves (1512-1554) was painted when she was fourteen years old and newly betrothed to Johann Friedrich I (1503-1554), the future Elector of Saxony. The oldest daughter of Johann III, Duke of Cleves, and Maria of Jülich-Berg, Sybille grew up at court in Düsseldorf with her sister Anne, one of the future wives of Henry VIII. Her marriage into the House of Saxony placed Sybille in the middle of the greatest ideological struggle of the sixteenth century, a reformation not only of the church but also of the state. A committed friend and supporter of Martin Luther, Johann Friedrich was actively engaged in the Reformation and took dramatic political and military risks to protect the reformatory movement. Sybille conducted a correspondence of her own with Martin Luther and actively supported her husband’s many campaigns, defending Wittenberg in his absence during Emperor Charles V’s siege of the city in 1546.

The Emperor’s siege of Wittenberg after Luther’s death was a huge conflict. Luther’s son Hans is said to have fought on the walls. That this woman led the defense is incredible. The Emperor eventually won, thinking he crushed the Reformation. Little did he know.

Anyway, that Cranach’s art speaks so strongly to people today should be an opening for us to explain the faith and the worldview that underlies his greatness.

Consider the range of his work and notice how free Cranach is. Notice how he appreciates individual human beings. Notice how he appreciates the beauty of nature and of ordinary life. Notice his edge in ridiculing vice and condemning corruption in both individuals and in the church. Notice how he experiences no contradiction between creativity and order, Biblical reality and his own reality. Notice his sense of vocation, of loving and serving his neighbor through his God-given gifts as an artist, a businessman, the mayor of Wittenberg, a lay leader in his congregation. How can we get this Christian sensibility back in our own times?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Bruce

    “Notice his sense of vocation, of loving and serving his neighbor through his God-given gifts as an artist, a businessman, the mayor of Wittenberg, a lay leader in his congregation. How can we get this Christian sensibility back in our own times?”

    By simple example, according to God’s grace.

  • Bruce

    “Notice his sense of vocation, of loving and serving his neighbor through his God-given gifts as an artist, a businessman, the mayor of Wittenberg, a lay leader in his congregation. How can we get this Christian sensibility back in our own times?”

    By simple example, according to God’s grace.

  • Manxman

    You ask – “How can we get this (Cranach’s) Christian sensibility back in our own times?”

    I think we need to have our minds renewed in order to reach more comprehensive, practical answers to the questions “How can a person glorify God in his life?” and “What are all the different ways I can love my neighbor?”

    Many in the Church seem to have so compartmentalized and over-spiritualized the concept of the nature of the Christian life that we limit the power and extent of the Gospel in our lives and in this present world.

  • Manxman

    You ask – “How can we get this (Cranach’s) Christian sensibility back in our own times?”

    I think we need to have our minds renewed in order to reach more comprehensive, practical answers to the questions “How can a person glorify God in his life?” and “What are all the different ways I can love my neighbor?”

    Many in the Church seem to have so compartmentalized and over-spiritualized the concept of the nature of the Christian life that we limit the power and extent of the Gospel in our lives and in this present world.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Maybe we just need to paint what our crucified and risen eyes see more with each our own vocational brush.

    Act as this woman did, as the sons of the King Christ has made us through His shed blood in our place.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Maybe we just need to paint what our crucified and risen eyes see more with each our own vocational brush.

    Act as this woman did, as the sons of the King Christ has made us through His shed blood in our place.

  • Theodore Gullixson

    Art criticism has so eviserated Christian content from consideration that to them the Hudson Bay school of American painters were just painting the majesty of America, instead of the Eden in America (God’s kingdom). It is no wonder that the present generation does not grasp the Christian content and Christological symbols in the works of the old masters. I think that an art historian book by Panafsky tried to reassert the Christian content of the old masters.
    Secondly, modern art has rejected representation as a viable form for the 21st century. Somehow Christian art painters have to find a new way to present biblical truth through art that communicates a message rather than just an emotion or a color.
    Is it also possible that the Christian Church has so rejected MODERN art in all its forms that the Christian artists of today receive little support, spiritually or financially?
    Perhaps what might help is a “coffee table” book of important paintings with Christian themes that would include explanatios of the significance of the Christian symbols.

  • Theodore Gullixson

    Art criticism has so eviserated Christian content from consideration that to them the Hudson Bay school of American painters were just painting the majesty of America, instead of the Eden in America (God’s kingdom). It is no wonder that the present generation does not grasp the Christian content and Christological symbols in the works of the old masters. I think that an art historian book by Panafsky tried to reassert the Christian content of the old masters.
    Secondly, modern art has rejected representation as a viable form for the 21st century. Somehow Christian art painters have to find a new way to present biblical truth through art that communicates a message rather than just an emotion or a color.
    Is it also possible that the Christian Church has so rejected MODERN art in all its forms that the Christian artists of today receive little support, spiritually or financially?
    Perhaps what might help is a “coffee table” book of important paintings with Christian themes that would include explanatios of the significance of the Christian symbols.

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    “Is it also possible that the Christian Church has so rejected MODERN art in all its forms that the Christian artists of today receive little support, spiritually or financially?”

    BINGO!

    I am an artist working in the best way I am able to glorify God. I have been given gifts by Him and want to do work that is pleasing to Him and edifying to His people. I get a lot of support in the form of a pat on the back and people are excited about what I do, but there is no financial support. Making sculptures is expensive and I struggle to make ends meet. People have marveled at how I can earn so little. I am a very good sculptor, but people just don’t want to spend much money on art.

    The only financial support I get is from the Roman Catholic church!The only spiritual support I get is from a group of Catholic artists! Why are all of my christian artist friends Catholic? Can you imagine the intense conflict I feel about joining the RCC!?

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    “Is it also possible that the Christian Church has so rejected MODERN art in all its forms that the Christian artists of today receive little support, spiritually or financially?”

    BINGO!

    I am an artist working in the best way I am able to glorify God. I have been given gifts by Him and want to do work that is pleasing to Him and edifying to His people. I get a lot of support in the form of a pat on the back and people are excited about what I do, but there is no financial support. Making sculptures is expensive and I struggle to make ends meet. People have marveled at how I can earn so little. I am a very good sculptor, but people just don’t want to spend much money on art.

    The only financial support I get is from the Roman Catholic church!The only spiritual support I get is from a group of Catholic artists! Why are all of my christian artist friends Catholic? Can you imagine the intense conflict I feel about joining the RCC!?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Sarah,
    In a world where the “most lively” churches take on that warehouse studio feel, and faithful Christ-centered voices (Issues Etc.) are marginalized by the religious establishment, it is little wonder that the amazing art which comes from your hands is under appreciated by those who should be championing it in our Synod’s churches and schools. I looked at your website (mind you, I’m no art critic) and think it a shame that such beauty and quality cannot earn a living wage. I pray the tide will turn on that though.

    I still remember with fondness the humble (and short) statue of the Good Shepherd that graced the lawn of the Church of my youth. I mention that just to illustrate how art sticks with you and lends a sense of permanence to what is taught (and I wonder if they have a bigger statue yet). In the church where I serve we have some of the most exquisite stained and painted windows that I have seen anywhere made in the 1930s. I don’t know if my congregation today would put them in if they saw the price difference between the art windows and something more “practical”. But would our church have lasted all these 110 years without the visible reinforcement of our Christ-centered preaching? I have my doubts.

    Don’t give up to the RCC!

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Sarah,
    In a world where the “most lively” churches take on that warehouse studio feel, and faithful Christ-centered voices (Issues Etc.) are marginalized by the religious establishment, it is little wonder that the amazing art which comes from your hands is under appreciated by those who should be championing it in our Synod’s churches and schools. I looked at your website (mind you, I’m no art critic) and think it a shame that such beauty and quality cannot earn a living wage. I pray the tide will turn on that though.

    I still remember with fondness the humble (and short) statue of the Good Shepherd that graced the lawn of the Church of my youth. I mention that just to illustrate how art sticks with you and lends a sense of permanence to what is taught (and I wonder if they have a bigger statue yet). In the church where I serve we have some of the most exquisite stained and painted windows that I have seen anywhere made in the 1930s. I don’t know if my congregation today would put them in if they saw the price difference between the art windows and something more “practical”. But would our church have lasted all these 110 years without the visible reinforcement of our Christ-centered preaching? I have my doubts.

    Don’t give up to the RCC!

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