Portrait of a Man
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Lucas Cranach the Elder
German, Saxony, about 1530
Pen and black ink, black chalk, and oil paint
10 5/16 x 7 7/8 in.

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For this unidentified sitter's likeness, one of Lucas Cranach the Elder's many portraits, Cranach used a technique uncommon in Northern European drawing of the early 1500s: brush and oil paint on paper. The gleaming white highlights of the oil paint in the face contrast with the brown ground, making the sitter seem to emerge from the shadows and enhancing the illusion of his living presence; the young man's large, intelligent eyes further the effect. Cranach combined intensity of expression with jewel-like refinement of surfaces to create a memorable image.

To produce the brownish ground, Cranach rubbed the paper with oil. He then sketched in the outlines of the head in pen and ink, meticulously going over the eyebrows, lashes, and outer facial contours. Next, using black chalk and brown oil paint, he sketched in the hat and collar. He continued by working up the face in oil paint, meticulously establishing the nuanced contours of the man's facial structure.