Lucas Cranach the Elder (c.1472-1553), The Stag Hunt of the Elector Frederic the Wise (1463-1525) of Saxony, 1529
The hunting scene is one of the paintings Cranach executed to document the important "sports" events of the aristocracy, for instance tournaments or, as here, hunting. The idea was to document the occasion as a memorable historical event.
There are several similar pictures of the hunt by Cranach in which the most important participants can be identified and where a castle in the background typically indicates where the hunt took place. However, that is not the case here. Neither the participants nor the venue can be determined with certainty.
Naïve and unrealistic
An obvious question has to be asked, for the picture is surprisingly unrealistic in tone, seeming almost naïve in its schematic treatment of landscape and figures. In this, they certainly represent a striking contrast especially to Cranach’s famed skill as an animal painter and his supremely convincing landscape paintings from the time of the Danube School. Why did he insist on this unrealistic, schematic, strip-cartoon-like character?
The Protestant Electors’ official pictures had to live up to the new understanding of the image, which demanded just this sign character and the precisely expressed meaning of the picture. The hunt scenes were memory images, which were not to seduce the viewer into thinking they were anything but images. They were simply to refer to the specific hunt and to show the special conditions under which it had taken place and to indicate the important participants. For this latter purpose, use was made of the templates, the "masks", from the many earlier official portraits. It is for this reason that it is possible to identify them so precisely.