Duchess Katharina of Mecklenburg (1487–1561)
Cranach der Ältere, Lucas (1472-1553) | Painter
Katharina, Sachsen, Herzogin (1472-1553) | Person(s) shown
Cranach painted his first portrait of Duke Heinrich in 1514, in the prestigious wedding portrait alongside his wife Katharina of Mecklenburg. These portraits are the earliest life-size depictions of secular rulers. The rich, gold-embroidered garments testified to their high social status. Heinrich acquired his sobriquet “the Pious” on account of his pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela. In 1537 he introduced Luther’s Protestant doctrine to his Freiberg territory.
In terms of the ‘heir and a spare’ rule for royals, Heinrich the Pious had the misfortune to be the second son. His older brother Georg the Bearded, Duke of Saxony, ruled the lands in Saxony under the Albertine line of the Wettin dynasty. Heinrich and his wife Catherine had their residence in Freiberg, where Heinrich ruled over the districts of Freiberg and Wolkenstein in the Erzgebirge – the Ore Mountains. He was nicknamed ‘the Pious’ after his pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela, journeys which showed him to be a devout Catholic. Catherine, though, was a passionate follower of Martin Luther. Apparently, she eventually managed to convert her husband. In 1537, Heinrich joined the Protestant Schmalkaldic League. Two years later, his brother Georg died. Heinrich – then 66 years old – became the ruling Duke of Saxony – and was quick to introduce Protestantism as the religion of his realm.
- Material & Technique
- Oil on panel, transferred to canvas
- Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister
- Inventory number
- Gal.-Nr. 1906 H