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Arts of Europe

The MFAH collections of art created on the European continent encompass artistic styles across the time line of history, from the ancient world to the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern era to the 21st century.

German, 1472 - 1553
The Suicide of Lucretia
Oil on panel

29 ½ x 21 ¼ inches

Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, Houston
Arts of Europe

The story of Lucretia is part of the legendary history of early Rome. Lucas Cranach's sensual rendering of her in this painting underscores a Northern Renaissance visual tradition of the dual role of women as both temptresses and morally upright beings. Cranach was an enormously successful artist who worked for the Saxon princes and courtiers in Wittenberg, Germany. Particularly popular were his paintings that featured nude women in subjects from Roman mythology and classical history.

The Suicide of Lucretia depicts the virtuous wife of a Roman nobleman.
The morning after she was raped by the king's son, she told her father
and husband what had happened, and then she fatally stabbed herself.
Her suicide enraged the people of Rome, who expelled the ruling family, laying the foundation for the establishment of a republic. Cranach and his workshop painted dozens of versions of Lucretia's story. This painting is believed to be one of the primary versions, because—unlike many of the others—inscribed on the ledge behind the figure of Lucretia is Cranach's monogram, and, most unusual, the date of the painting's execution.