The Deer Hunt, 1506 ca.?

Original woodcut from two blocks inches 14,9 x 20,1 (mm 379 x 513)

Original woodcut, monogrammed in block; Bartsch VII, 292,119; Hollstein VI, 115 II/II;

Splendid proof with homogeneous quality. Both blocks are printed on the same paper, although only one of the two sheets has the watermark "Cross with mountains in shield," similar to Briquet No. 1243, dated between 1530 and 1565. Imprinted in the final state, after moving the shield from the lower to the upper margin. Only a few examples are known of the first state besides the two preserved in Vienna and Oxford. Short tear, perfectly restored, in the right sheet, otherwise both plates are in perfect condition.

With this woodcut, the largest in size by the German artist, Cranach demonstrates
his technical skill by creating a vast and complicated composition in which he succeeds in giving unity and perspective coherence.
The subject represents one of the favorite hunts of the princes of Saxony: the deer hunt. The point of view is from a bird's eye view, which makes the panel particularly unusual in terms of iconography and composition. Such composition, in fact, is typical of city views, moreover still very rare and beautiful at the time, and was almost never adopted for different subjects.

Lucas Cranach was born in Germany in 1472 and soon began working in his father's printmaking workshop. In the early 1500s he began producing woodcuts in Vienna, where over the years he created a series of elaborate compositions with religious and secular themes. This is just at the dawn of printmaking, and at that time there is no evidence of many engravers active in the city, despite it being an academic hub. The lack of ready ground to accommodate his innovative originality forced him to move, and within a very short time, in 1506, he entered the circle of artists protected by Frederick the Wise of Saxony, an important prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire and a very fine art collector.
It was during this period that Cranach engraved the monumental (for the time) work on two matrices The Deer Hunt, a woodcut that stands out within the cycle, dedicated to court life, for its undeniable artistic and documentary value. As an enlightened patron, Prince Frederick used the engraver's works to promote the intellectual and artistic vibrancy of his duchy. The ambition to spread his own coat of arms contributed greatly, as an added effect, to the rise of graphic technique. Moreover, thanks to the very good relations between the duke, founder of the University of Wittenberg, and Martin Luther, who taught there, Lucas Cranach had the privilege of illustrating the German edition of Luther's Bible.

Although the materials were partly financed by the Prince of Saxony, Lucas Cranach was not immune to the cost of paper, which still circulated with difficulty at the time. Therefore, the unique artist successfully engaged in the paper trade, and other entrepreneurial opportunities such as a printing press and a pharmacy.