School of Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, c. 1472-1553)
Pair of Portraits: Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora
Luther with cipher monogram and date ".../1508' u.r., Katharina
inscribed "...K. VON BORA..." u.c.
Oil on panel, sight sizes 16 1/2 x 11 1/4 in. (41.8 x 28.7 cm), framed.
Condition: Losses, retouch, skinning, craquelure, highly varnished, signature and date on Luther are later additions.
Provenance: A church in New Haven, Connecticut, given to artist J.H. Dreesen in lieu of payment for decorating the interior of the church in the 1920s, then by descent to the present owners.
N.B. An original diptych with portraits of Martin Luther and his wife Katharina von Bora by Lucas Cranach the Elder is in the collection of the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt, Germany. Many period copies were made by Cranach's workshop and by imitators of Cranach.
John Harry Dreesen, the artist who received the paintings at hand in the 1920s, was born in Denmark on May 27, 1866, as Jorgen Heinrich Dreesen. He later changed his name to John Harry after moving to America. He died in 1951. The name and location of the church in New Haven that he decorated is not known, although the family assumes that it was a Lutheran church.
Each with a gummed label from the Wadsworth Athenaeum with a typed inscription, "Property of/John Harry Dressen, Mansfield Center, CT."
Luther with fine craquelure to both varnish and paint layers; fine hairline to surface in u.r. quadrant measuring approx. 7 1/2 in. length; several areas of old retouch to Luther's face, particularly chin area with the largest measuring approx. 1/4 x 1/4 in.; retouch to his right lock of hair and along frame liner edges which are visible under UV; Katharina with fine hairline to surface of l.r. quadrant measuring approx. 12 3/4 in. length; fine craquelure to both varnish and paint layers; old retouch beneath varnish layer to her collar with largest area spanning approx. 1 x 1 1/2 in. (which now appears bluish); retouch along frame liner edges and a very thin wash to background of u.r. quadrant; no additional condition issues to report.
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