Lucas Cranach the Elder and Workshop
The Judgement of Paris
Lucas Cranach the Elder is one of the towering giants of German Renaissance painting. Works by the artist, as well as those by his sons and members of his workshop, have been greatly prized from his lifetime until today for the eccentric and highly individual style that he inaugurated. Assisted by his pupils and workshop assistants, Cranach was the principal image-maker to the electors of Saxony and their entourage in Wittenberg. He and his patrons delighted in the depiction of classical, literary, and even religious subjects that included nude female figures. The Judgment of Paris centers on the attractiveness of the three most beautiful classical goddesses.
The story is a legendary one, based in part on historical events. The mythological part begins when Eris, the goddess of discord, tosses a golden apple marked “to the fairest” into a party attended by the goddesses Juno, Venus, and Minerva. Each claimed ownership, and Jupiter appointed Paris, the son of the King of Troy, to decide who was the most beautiful. Mercury, both the messenger god and the god of war, brought the three goddesses to earth, where Paris, depicted here slumbers by a tree, his horse seen peering out from behind a hedge. Perhaps aware that their looks alone will not win the prize, each resorted to bribing Paris. Juno promised him wealth and power. Minerva offered him knowledge and the skills of warfare. Venus, offered him the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Troy, wife of the Greek king Menelaus.