Symbolika kolumny w obrazie ołtarzowym Lucasa Cranacha młodszego z kościoła zamkowego w Dessau

  • Agnieszka Seidel-Grzesińska (Autor/in)


AGNIESZKA SEIDEL-GRZESINSKA (University of Wroclaw) / Christological symbolism of the column in the altarpiece by Lucas Cranach the Younger from the castle church in Dessau
Lucas Cranach the Younger’s altarpiece in the Epitaphaltar of Duke Joachim von Anhalt (1509–1561), installed at the Dessau castle church in 1565, has been the subject of numerous iconographic interpretations. The painting’s message is undoubtedly complex. On the one hand, it represents events from the Gospel; on the other, it is a group portrait firmly rooted in historical reality. It portrays the Dukes of Anhalt and several exponents of the Reformation. Scholars have so far focused primarily on identification of the prominent sitters. Key questions concerning the meaning of the image remain open. The author points out the intriguing motif of the column, which – she argues – seems revealing when interpreted from the theological perspective of Christological symbolism. Examples of early Christian and medieval art, as well as Martin Luther’s writings allow to identify the column as a symbol of Christ. Cranach’s painting may therefore be read as an image of the Church as a community of believers in general, as well as an actual image of Wittenberg’s Lutheran Church, whose centre and foundation is Christ symbolised by the column. The column may also be seen as a sign indicating the place where is “domus Dei et porta coeli [the House of God and the Gate to Heaven]”, i.e. a symbol of the Church. The kneeling Duke, seen in the foreground, as well as his relatives and friends, portrayed in the painting, declare their belonging to the Church. Christ, being “the Gate of the Lambs”, secures their salvation and entry into the Father’s house, which is visually indicated by the door visible in the background.