Princess Sybille

Princess Sybille March 19, 2008

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?

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