'Cranach Magnified' is an Innovative Comparative Tool Developed by
the J. Paul Getty Museum, with Contributions from the Courtauld Institute of Art
and The Royal Collection
June 28, 2007
LOS ANGELES—Imagine getting so close to a painting that you can spot details barely visible to the naked eye. That’s just not possible in a museum under the watchful eye of a diligent security officer. But, thanks to a new Web tool developed by the J. Paul Getty Museum, it’s now possible online.
“Cranach Magnified” is a new feature located on the “Museum” pages of the Getty Web site at www.getty.edu/museum (under the “Research and Conservation” pages) that lets visitors get in close to paintings by 16th-century German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder and compare different paintings side by side. By allowing visitors to zoom in closer than ever before to examine details of an artist’s works, it also provides an ideal venue for virtual examination of Cranach’s paintings.
The project currently focuses on three paintings by Cranach that are related by date and iconography. However, the Getty plans to expand the site quickly with the addition of other works that span the course of the artist’s career to form an image resource that could eventually include not only works firmly attributed to Cranach the Elder by Cranach himself, but also paintings associated with his workshop. The three that are currently a part of the site are: Adam and Eve (1526; London, Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery), A Faun and his Family with a Slain Lion (about 1526; Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum), and Apollo and Diana (about 1530; London, The Royal Collection).
Visitors to the site are able to compare macroscopic details of each of these three paintings against one another using adjustable levels of magnification. This allows for in-depth comparisons of Cranach’s brushstroke from one painting to the next and for the discovery of small details that are not easily visible to the naked eye.
This project is rooted in the Museum’s own research on A Faun and his Family, which revealed a number of startling features when studied under magnification. “This new site offers scholars and the public an innovative way to study an artist’s technique,” explains Yvonne Szafran, associate conservator in the paintings conservation department at the J. Paul Getty Museum, who conceived the project and initiated development of the site with the Getty’s Web group. “By getting in so close to these paintings, we can see the varied and beautifully descriptive character of Cranach’s brushwork. The surprisingly minute features characteristic of his refined execution are revealed with a resolution usually only achieved with the aid of a microscope.”
Adds Szafran “In the Getty painting, for example, the viewer can zoom in close enough to find a man running down the hill that forms part of the painting’s background. The actual size of the runner is one-third of a centimeter. This is not something you can very easily spot on first looking at the work.”
“The implication this level of magnification has on those studying an artist and his technique is profound,” says Anne Woollett, associate curator of paintings at the Getty Museum, who also helped create the site. “While the site currently is focused on the work of Lucas Cranach, there is no reason we can’t take the same principles and create a focused study of the painting techniques of other artists. The fact we can do this on the Web means we can easily share the knowledge with art scholars and enthusiasts, including conservators, art historians, and conservation scientists, the world over.”
The launch of the site coincides with the opening of the U.K.’s first exhibition devoted to Cranach. Temptation in Eden: Lucas Cranach’s ‘Adam and Eve’ at the Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery runs from June 21 through Sept. 23, 2007. All three paintings featured on “Cranach Magnified” will be on view in this exhibition which examines the Courtauld’s Adam and Eve in the context of closely-related paintings, drawings and prints by Cranach and his contemporaries from major international collections.
Lucas Cranach the Elder was one of the leading painters of the German Renaissance and served Duke Frederick the Wise and the court at Wittenburg from 1507 to 1553. He oversaw a busy workshop that strove to meet the high demand for his portraits, as well as his popular religious and mythological scenes. Over the course of his career, Cranach developed a signature approach to the nude form and to specific motifs, notably animals, which the workshop was able to replicate. His most successful compositions were repeated and copied in the workshop, resulting in multiple versions of identical subjects. The field of Cranach scholarship – notably questions of attribution – presents exceptional challenges due to the complex and prolific nature of Cranach’s studio.
All screen shots pulled from www.getty.edu.
• Page One: This screen shot shows the home page of the Getty’s new “Cranach Magnified” Web site. The site allows the viewer to closely examine three paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder (from left to right): A Faun and his Family with a Slain Lion (about 1526; Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum), Apollo and Diana (about 1530; London, The Royal Collection), and Adam and Eve (1526; London, Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery).
• Page Two (upper left): This screen shot shows magnified details of two Cranach paintings comparing the faces of two women (left to right): A Faun and his Family with a Slain Lion (about 1526; Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum) and Adam and Eve (1526; London, Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery).
• Page Two (lower right): As an example of the level of magnification the site offers, this screen shot shows a detail from the Getty’s A Faun and his Family with a Slain Lion on the left. The image is that of the figure of a man running down the hill that appears in the painting’s background. The actual size of the man in the painting is about one-third of a centimeter. The detail on the right is of the eye of the stag in Apollo and Diana (about 1530; London, The Royal Collection).
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