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In the Gallery – Lucas Cranach the Elder: St. Christopher and the Christ Child



C 203.1- St. Christopher and the Christ Child, Lucas Cranach the Elder, German c.1518

By Angela Gonzalez, Curatorial Intern

Lucas the Elder was the foremost member of a family of artists by the name Cranach working in Saxony in the sixteenth century. In 1505, he settled in Wittenberg, where he became court artist to the Electors of Saxony. There he established a highly productive workshop that developed a distinct manner of painting that defined the art of Saxony for the rest of the sixteenth century.

This painting depicts the legend of St. Christopher, which records a Canaanite of huge stature named Offero who wanted to serve the most powerful person in the land. His first master, a king, failed him by fleeing in fear of Satan. The giant Offero left this king. During his wanderings in search of the all-powerful Christ, the giant came upon a hermit who directed him to ferry poor and weak people across a swollen stream. One night the giant Offero carried a small child. This small child grew heavier and heavier with each step. With the aid of a large branch the two reached the opposite shore where the giant explained how he felt like he was carrying the weight of the world. The child explained, yes. You were indeed carrying the weight of the world as well as the weight of the creator of the world. Offero was later given the name Christopher; which is Greek for “Christ-bearer.”


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