Station: [19] The Workshop

The pictures in our gallery were all originally painted on wood. We have a study of the painting technique, which will show you how such a painting was created. It uses "The Judgement of Paris" as an example. The 1535 original hangs in the Anhalt Painting Gallery in Dessau. 

The Judgement of Paris is an episode from Greek mythology. Young Paris has to decide which of three goddesses is the most beautiful: Aphrodite, Athena or Hera. Our study of painting technique shows the three goddesses in different stages of their emergence. Paris is not included in this painting. The original was put into storage during the Second World War and then stolen. When it was returned to the Gemäldegalerie Dessau in 1988, the third panel, showing Paris, was missing. 

The Cranach workshop took up the subject more than once and produced various versions. We have one example – which includes Paris – on display in our picture gallery. You’ll also find it on your screen. But now, let’s look more closely at the study of painting technique:

The panel is made of wood from the common beech (Fagus sylvatica) and consists of three individual boards glued together and sanded down. On the left you can see the natural colour of the wood. A chalk primer was applied, then repeatedly sanded down and reapplied. The final layer was a glue primer. 

Now it’s time for the actual art. 

The subject was roughed out, and then the dark and solid colours were applied. In a further step, the bodies were painted in skin tones. Finally, the artists added the details, working in fairly dry oil paints.

The display case contains the materials used in the workshop: pigments and binders for making paint. In the Renaissance, pigments were extracted from soil, rocks, metals and plant or animal components. Even semi-precious stones were pulverised: malachite for greens, and azurite or lapis lazuli for shades of blue, for example. For the magnificent princely robes, surfaces were painted over a gold base layer.


All depictions: © Dagmar Trüpschuch und Cranach Stiftung