Examination
March 12, 2013 to March 20, 2013








Description

The half-length portraits of Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora portray each sitter staring at a 45º angle. Martin looks to his left while Katharina stares to her right. The bearded Luther is dressed in black as Junker Jörg with his right hand on the pommel of a sword. Along the bottom of the painting, his cropped left hand is positioned just below the sword’s cross-guard. The portrait is placed against a green background. It is signed and dated “1537.”







Lucas Cranach the Elder Martin Luther
The Muskegon Museum of Art
Muskegon, Michigan

Lucas Cranach the Elder Katharina von Bora
The Muskegon Museum of Art
Muskegon, Michigan







Katharina is imaged against a similar green background with arms folded at her waist. Both hands are visible. She is wearing a fur-collared, floral-patterned black dress with a black-edged white blouse. Her brownish hair is drawn back under a hairnet. The undated painting is signed in the lower-right corner.







Luther Signature and Date

Katharina Signature








Provenance

The Hackley Art Gallery, currently the Muskegon Museum of Art in Muskegon, Michigan, acquired the portraits in July of 1939 from the E. and A. Silberman Galleries, New York, New York. Dr. W. R. Valentiner, director of the Detroit Institute of Art, and former curator with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, authenticated the paintings in a telegram dated May 17, 1939. (4) (5)


Valentiner Telegram May 17, 1939


On May 19, 1939, Frank Almy, the Hackley Art Gallery’s director, offered David Silberman $10,000.00 plus the museum’s “Nocturne in Bruges” by Henri Le Sidaner, for the two Cranachs and a portrait of Dr. Samuel Johnson by Gilbert Stuart. This offer was accepted.


Almy Offer May 19, 1939


Silberman Acceptance May 20, 1939


The museum cites previous owners of the portraits chronologically as Count Franz Vetter van der Lilie, Vienna; the E. and A. Silberman Galleries, New York; the Drey Collection, Munich; the Steinmeyer Collection, Berlin; and, again, the E. and A. Silberman Galleries, New York. There is no documentation to support these references. (6)



Supports

The portraits have been painted on wooden panels measuring H. 51 cm x W. 36 cm x T. .48 cm. The supports are stable and do not exhibit planar distortions or cracking. The wood has been cut tangentially with the grain running vertically. Each panel has been cradled with five vertical battens and five movable horizontal members. The backs show no inscriptions or markings except for the museum’s accession numbers: 39.5 for the male portrait and 39.6 for the female. Dendrochronological examination verified beechwood (Fagus sp.) as the support material. (7)


Gesso

The ground has been thinly and evenly applied on both panels probably white when first applied but now slightly discolored from oil staining. The gesso appears to be calcium carbonate and is well intact. There are no areas where the ground has been used as a transitional tone, although a lighter-toned outline of thinned paint is present in the upper right corner of Katharina’s portrait. The gesso extends to the right and left edges on both panels: .63 cm at the top and bottom are ungessoed.


Katharina Upper-Right Corner

Ungessoed Upper Edge



Paint

The thin paint layer has been smoothly applied with no areas of impasto. It is generally secure, although minor weak areas and losses are present along the edges of both portraits from former frame damage. In scattered areas the ground tone is visible where the paint layer has been thinned. The paint is pellicular in nature. (8)

The backgrounds have been painted using minute smooth strokes offering seamless transitions. In general, the flesh and cloth tones are slightly thicker suggesting a careful modeling of diaphanous layers. There are no areas of visible pentimenti.



Restoration Paint

An ultraviolet light examination offers clues to a painting's condition history. Organic varnishes glow a yellow-green color under such lighting. If restoration paint has been applied on top of the varnish, the area cannot glow and appears jet-black. This is referred to as primary fluorescence. If a painting has been varnished more than once and the restoration work is sandwiched between the varnish layers, the ultraviolet light shows these areas as dark shadows. This is referred to as secondary fluorescence. If the restoration paint is under the varnish, the surface will glow uniformly and the examination technique may offer a false positive conclusion.

The ultraviolet examination revealed secondary fluorescence within all areas of both paintings. It was most pronounced in the backgrounds and in the lower left corner of the Luther portrait. Only minor additions were evident in the flesh tones, which is not unusual since the hard lead-white pigment that predominates in these areas is less susceptible to environmental and physical damage. Museum records do not include any prior treatment documentation.



Surface Films

The paint surfaces were coated with three distinct films. A dirt and grime film was resting on top of two organic varnish layers. Organic varnishes yellow and darken with age, thereby falsifying a painting's intended tonal relationships. Organic varnishes also serve to flatten the three-dimensional illusion of space. The portraits’ overall visual qualities were severely compromised by these overlaying films.










Page 4--Treatment



















Index Page,   Page 1--Introduction,   Page 2--Short Biographies,   Page 3--Examination,   Page 4--Treatment,
Page 5--The Hunt,   Page 6--The Inscriptions,   Page 7--The Rose,   Page 8--Final Thoughts,
Page 9--Endnotes







Footnotes

4. Valentiner biographical information from-http://www.dictionaryofarthistorians.org/valentinerw.htm accessed 5/15/14.

5. A telegram, dated May 18, 1939, from Dr. Paul Grummann, director of the Joslyn Memorial Building, Omaha, Nebraska, to Frank Almy claims “authentication by Friedlander.” The authentication was also referenced in an unsigned internal Muskegon Museum of Art memo dated May 16, 1939. There is no documentation to support the authentication and there is no reference to the paintings in Friedlander’s 1932 The Paintings of Lucas Cranach. Heinz Norden translation of Die Gemälde von Lucas Cranach. Ithaca, N.Y. Cornell University Press. 1978. p.99.

6. Howarth, Shirley Reiff. European Painting: Muskegon Museum of Art. S.D. Warren Company. Muskegon, Michigan. 1981. p.14.

7. Dendrochronology performed by Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, Wisconsin. Results received in a letter dated March 11, 2014.

8. Stout, George. "Classes of Simple Paint Structure." Technical Studies, vol. VI. 1938. p.231.



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Barry Bauman Conservation
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