Portrait of Johann Friedrich saved for Plymouth

  • 2 July 2011

A 17-century painting has been bought at auction by Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery...

Portrait of Johann Friedrich, the Elector of Saxony and the Reformers, circa 1630-1640 © Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery

Portrait of Johann Friedrich, the Elector of Saxony and the Reformers, circa 1630-1640

The Art Fund has helped Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery acquire Portrait of Johann Friedrich, the Elector of Saxony and the Reformers, a 17th-century painting by an unknown artist.

The historical painting is a copy of an original 16th-century work and shows the leaders of the Protestant Reformation – a movement that aimed to reform the Roman Catholic Church in Northern Europe during the 1500s. At the centre of the portrait is Johann Friederich, the Elector of Saxony - a powerful supporter of the Reformation movement. Although the painter of this particular portrait is unknown, the original work was created by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), a leading 16th century artist who became one of the best known propagandists for the Protestant Reformation. 

Johann Friederich was captured by Charles V at the battle of Mühlberg and went into exile in Augsburg and Innsbruck, followed by Cranach. The painting also includes portraits of Martin Luther and other German and Swiss reformers.

“This painting is a fascinating addition to our art collections in a number of ways,” says Acting Keeper of Art, Alison Cooper. “It helps us maintain a good record of the religious history of the region, adding to the variety of portraits we own and boosting our representation of the Tudor period. The work will become the subject of many ongoing research projects looking at portraiture of this period.”

It was previously part of the Clarendon Collection which was on loan to Plymouth from 1954 until 2010. The Art Fund gave £5, 344 towards the total cost of £13,308.

For more information about museum’s collections and acquisitions visit the Plymouth Museum's website.