Saturday, 11 April 2020

der honigdieb

Though perhaps best known for his iconic portraits of contemporary celebrities, like this one of Martin Luther that’s become synonymous and defining, the imagination, which takes a rather lurid turn at times, of the painter and printmaker Lucas Cranach the Elder (*1472 – †1553, confusingly from the village of Cronach) also has a legacy worth contemplating—especially after the accusations and misapprehensions that the shock of the naked body in classical and Renaissance art wasn’t some soft smut for the elite with the intrinsic value, patronage and support system not accorded to the prole material made by machine and put out by Pornosec for the masses. We are confronted with this question by a new exhibit in the Compton Verney Gallery in Warwickshire—encapsulated by the some twenty known versions of Cupid complaining to Venus (1526, Venus mit Amor als Honigdieb)—all of which portray the two classical love deities gossiping, nude but Venus naked in a wide-rimmed hat with ostrich plumes and Cupid assailed by bees for having snatched a bit of honeycomb from the apple tree that they’re standing under. The subject was popular enough, based off a bucolic poem by Theocritus called Κηριοκλέπτης (Keriokleptes, same meaning) for Cranach to sell basically two dozen copies with slight variation with Venus laughing off Cupid’s lament and comparing the stings of the provoked bees to his own smitten arrows. One has to wonder what was informed by carnal experience and what was moralising and emendating in his portfolio. Visit the entire collection online at the link above.