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mheu, Historical Museum of the Urban Environment

The Fountain of Youth

Lucas Cranach the Elder

The Fountain of Youth - Lucas Cranach the Elder

c. 1546
oil on limewood panel
122.5cm x 186.5cm
Berlin, Gemäldegalerie
© Blauel/Gnamm - ARTOTHEK

View this work in the exhibition Bathing

The work

The Fountain of Youth is possibly a late work painted around 1546. Cranach, who was one of the chief creators of Protestant iconography, here abandons religious themes and, using the excuse of a mythological subject, paints a probably humorous, slightly moralistic and delightfully ironic, playful work. The fountain appears to rejuvenate only the women brought on horseback, by cart or wheelbarrow, or carried on someone's back by the people. On the other side however, it is the nobles who receive the far-from-shy young virgins as they emerge from the fountain.

The artist

Born in Kronach near Coburg in 1472, Lucas Muller (known as Cranach), along with Dürer and Altdorfer, was one of the greatest artists of the German Renaissance. Appointed court painter to the Electors of Saxony at Wittenberg in 1505, he was elected burgomaster of that city in 1537 and owned a series of businesses: a wine shop, an apothecary, a bookshop and stationer and a printing workshop. A friend of Luther and a supporter of the Protestant cause, he was imprisoned with his prince, John Frederick the Magnanimous, after the latter was defeated by the Catholic armies of Charles V in 1548. He died in Weimar in 1553, a year after his release.