The Hunt

First Strategy
April 15, 2013 to July 26, 2013

Hoping to recover the lost inscriptions, Internet research was undertaken to determine whether Cranach, or his workshop, painted other versions of the Junker Jörg image. The Cranach Digital Archive records numerous portraits of Martin Luther, including two as Junker Jörg. Similar to the Muskegon portrait, the paintings are half-length, the sitter is shown in 3/4 profile, and one hand rests on the pommel of a sword. Also, Luther is dressed in black against a green background. The panels were painted without inscriptions and offered no clues to the missing text. The portraits are imaged below.

Lucas Cranach the Elder Martin Luther (1521)
Museum der Bildenden Kunste
Leipzig, Germany

Lucas Cranach the Elder Martin Luther (1521)
Klassik Stiftung
Weimar, Germany

Internet research also was carried out on the visible letters from the Luther portrait in the hope of discovering a similar pattern elsewhere. None of these attempts was successful.

First Breakthrough
July 27, 2013

An exchange of e-mails between myself, the Muskegon Museum of Art, and European specialists provided the first breakthrough. Dr. Gunnar Heydenreich, project director for the Cranach Digital Archive and professor of conservation at the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne, Germany, sent the author an e-mail on July 27, 2013. (14) The e-mail included a portrait of Martin Luther as Junker Jörg similar to Muskegon's. The painting, imaged below left, was owned by a small church in Penig, Germany, approximately 50 miles west of Dresden. The portrait was identical to Muskegon's, imaged below right, in almost every detail, including the composition, signature, location of the upper and lower inscriptions, and its 1537 date. The only detail that was missing was the coat of arms. There was no corresponding Katharina image.

Lucas Cranach the Elder Martin Luther (1537)
Penig, Germany

Luther After Treatment
Muskegon Version

While the e-mailed image's resolution was poor, and there was evidence of previous damage, additional letters in the upper inscription were now visible. Using digital techniques, these letters were superimposed onto the treated panel. (15)

Luther Upper Inscription Area

Luther Upper Inscription Penig Version

Luther Upper Inscription With Known Letters

The Latin ANNO 1521 refers to the year Frederick the Wise of Saxony sheltered Luther as Junker Jörg. While the additional letters were a breakthrough, they did not offer a complete transcription of the original text.

The lower inscription had been completely removed from Muskegon's painting–or was it? Using similar digital techniques, the readable letters from the Penig version–including an E with a line over it–were placed onto the panel. The line is a contraction mark that can replace a following N or M. Some of the added letters easily harmonized with the outline of the loss areas, suggesting that the inscriptions were the same. Once again, the additional letters produced only a partial understanding of the missing text.

Luther Lower Inscription Area

Lower Inscription Penig Version

Luther Lower Inscription With Known Letters

Second Strategy
August 5, 2013 to February 21, 2014

By contacting the Penig Church (Stadtkirche), it was assumed that someone would be able to forward a high-resolution image of their painting and possibly solve the inscription mystery. A Dutch, German-speaking colleague, made several calls to the church on my behalf and was always told the minister was away. (16)

In a serendipitous find, he came across a 2013 article from a local Penig newspaper confirming the church owned not only a Martin Luther portrait but also a portrait of Katharina von Bora. (17) The story went on to note that the paintings were in storage in Dresden. The article's author, Mr. Michael Stellner, was contacted and his associate Mr. Alexander Christoph forwarded the minister's e-mail address. (18) Two inquiries to the minister went unanswered.

Several departments at the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden were contacted to inquire if anyone there knew anything about the paintings. The Alte Nationalgalerie's director, Dr. Bernhard Maaz, copied a Dr. Heydenreich on one of the exchanges. (18) This led to the second breakthrough.

Second Breakthrough
February 21, 2014 to May 20, 2014

On February 21, 2014, Dr. Heydenreich suggested that possibly Dr. Ingo Sandner, a founding partner of the Cranach Digital Archive, could help in the search. After my eight months of searching, it took Dr. Sandner two days to find the paintings. (19) Ironically, the portraits were undergoing conservation under the care of Ms. Christine Kelm, chief of conservation for the Saxony State Monuments Conservation Office in Dresden.

On April 10, 2014, Dr. Sandner viewed the portraits with Ms. Kelm, but he was not able to fully decipher the inscriptions due to the discolored varnish and former overpaint. While Dr. Sandner also offered his best interpretations of the text, a reply e-mail to himself and Ms. Kelm led to the third breakthrough. (20) This information is reviewed on the following page.

Page 6--The Inscriptions

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


14. Dr. Heydenreich is also the author of the acclaimed Lucas Cranach the Elder: Painting Materials, Techniques and Workshop Practice. Amsterdam University Press. 2007.

15. Digital font chosen for its similarity to the original.

16. The colleague is a gallery owner in Holland.

17. E-mail dated 8/6/13. The article Zwei wertvolle Gemälde der Kirchgemeinde sollen Lutherweg aufwerten (Two Valuable Paintings of the Parish to Enhance Lutherweg). Freie Presse, 2/25/13, referenced on

18. E-mail dated 10/7/13.

19. E-mail dated 2/21/14. On 5/20/14, Dr. Sandner said it took two phone calls to find the paintings, one to the church and one to the Monuments Office.

20. E-mail dated 3/12/14.



Barry Bauman Conservation
Contact: Mr. Barry Bauman
1122 N. Jackson Ave., River Forest, IL. 60305
Ph.(708)771-0382  Fax.(708)771-1532