Lucas Cranach the Elder in the Medici collections

Exhibition at the Uffizi celebrates 500 years of the Protestant Reformation

Editorial Staff
October 31, 2017 - 12:15

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther walked up the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany and posted his Ninety-five Theses to the main portal. The text listed the points of his opposition to the sale of indulgences in the wake of Pope Leo X’s proclamation that anyone who donated to the construction of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome would be granted a plenary indulgence remitting their sins. What followed was a complete transformation of the Catholic Church in the form of the Protestant Reformation, the effects of which can still be felt today.


The Uffizi exhibition Portraits of the Reformation explores the Reformation’s impact on the art world, notably the work of Lucas Cranach the Elder, who led the movement’s iconographic program. A close friend and collaborator of Martin Luther, Cranach was heavily involved in Lutheranism and was behind many of the official portraits of the movement’s founders. Some of these works made their way into the Medici collections in the 16th and 17th centuries, including the portraits of Martin Luther and his wife, Philip Melanchthon and the Electors of Saxony Frederick the Wise and Johann the Steadfast. Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Galleries, stated that “the exhibition shows how open-minded the Medici were towards new theological trends, as they were always looking to chronicle the cultural variety present in Europe.”


On display are Cranach’s portraits, as well as the engravings by Cranach that accompanied Luther’s German translation of the Bible and portraits of Florentines who were investigated for expressing interest in the emerging ideas. The exhibition is running until January 7, 2018 in the Sala di Camino.

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