Цена вместе с коммисионными Сотбис составила всего 677,6 тыс. паундов. Картина обрела солидный провенанс. Впрочем Подсолнухам он когда-то не помог.
Believed by the present family owners to have been bought by their grandfather, who was actively buying pictures in the 1920s, and who thought it to be Italian, probably Venetian.
This previously unrecorded picture is an important addition to Cranach's oeuvre. It has survived with virtually all the fragile glazes in the face intact, clearly revealing Cranach's distinctive highly refined technique.
We are grateful to Dr. Dieter Koepplin and Dr. Werner Schade for independently confirming on the basis of first-hand inspection that this is an entirely autograph work, painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder without any workshop assistance. Dr. Schade considers it an early work, dating from circa 1509, while Dr. Koepplin thinks that it could have been painted at any time in the first two decades of the 16th Century.
The type of image derives from Early Netherlandish painting - a famous example was painted by Jan van Eyck, but he depicted Christ's head uncrowned with thorns. Later in the 16th Century it is more closely associated with Dirck Bouts, who painted several examples as part of diptychs in which Christ is turned towards the Virgin. These were produced in larger numbers by his son Albrecht Bouts, who also painted a tondo of Christ Crowned with Thorns, probably derived from a lost work by his father, which provides the closest antecedent of the present picture in Netherlandish art (Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; several early copies are also known). In German art, an apparently close analogy is to be found in a woodcut of circa 1522 traditionally associated with Albrecht Dürer, but generally believed to be by Hans Sebald Beham, in which Christ's lips are also parted (see Mende / Schoch/ Scherbaum, Albrecht Durer: das dmongraphische werk, Munchen, Loudon, Prestel, 2001-(2002), 3 vol.). The present painting by Cranach, however, differs in a crucial respect: the earlier prototypes, and the Beham woodcut, are for the most part entirely symmetrical, and thus represent an image of Christ's head as recorded by the Sudarium of Saint Veronica; but here we see Christ's head turned slightly to his right. This is not just an effect caused by the lighting which comes from the left, His head is actually turned, while His eyes remain fixed on the viewer. This gives the face greater life and directness, so we feel we are looking at a portrait of the living Christ, and not a transferred image, or an icon.
Within Cranach's own oeuvre, there are obvious parallels with his many depictions of Christ as the Man of Sorrows, the earliest of which is probably that painted on the reverse of a panel in Torgau, dating from 1507, or those of the Ecce Homo, known in many treatments from the middle of the second decade of the 16th Century onwards. The present work is, however, a new and independent subject, within Cranach's oeuvre, and in German painting as a whole.
Dr. Schade has raised the intriguing possibility that this picture may have been painted in connection with the relic of a thorn from the crown of thorns which had been presented by King Louis of France to the Elector of Saxony, and which was kept in an elaborate reliquary at Wittenberg.
Infra-red reflectography has revealed fascinating underdrawing, to be seen here in a composite image, reproduced here. It seems that Cranach initially drew on the grounded panel two male figures in profile facing each other: an older bearded man to the left, and a youth to the right. They have no compositional or thematic connection with the painting. There is evidence of further underdrawing unrelated to the painting, for example above the youth to the right, but much of this is obscured by later underdrawing and by the painting. At a later stage, Cranach made more conventional underdrawing, deleineating the contours of the painting, and drawing the hair and moustache in particular. Although these are meticulously handled, and finely worked out in great detail, and in general related to the composition of the painting, Cranach did not always follow this underdrawing when completing his painting.
The panel was evidently set within an engaged frame, and the original edges can clearly be seen at the top and the bottom, and less clearly at the right. None of the sides appear to be cut, but the left and the right may have been planed to an even edge for framing. the image of Christ's head does not appear in the dead centre of the composition, but this can be accounted for by the slight turning of His head.