This impressive book breaks much new ground in the art and architectural history of Renaissance Berlin-Brandenburg. The Hohenzollern electors’ territorial expansion, religious choices, and dynastic fashioning set the scene for palace construction, church rebuilding, embellishment of interiors, and transformation of images. Their shift from Catholicism to Lutheranism to Calvinism is evidenced in epitaphs, altarpieces, portraits, drawings and documents. The exhibition was designed around Berlin’s roughly eighty Cranach paintings, a third of which had been in the Hohenzollern collections since the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries. The first part of the book consists of thirteen outstanding essays discussing various themes connected with the exhibition, which was held at two venues – one in Charlottenburg Palace, the other in St. Marienkirche. The second part consists of a profusely illustrated and richly annotated catalog.
The introductory essay by Elke Anna Werner provides a superb thematic introduction to the exhibition. The cultural blossoming of Berlin began with the Hohenzollern’s move to the Mark Brandenburg, where they campaigned to secure land and electoral titles. Elector Johann Cicero (1455-1499) was the first to be buried in Brandenburg. After his death in 1499, his sons Joachim I (1499-1535) and Albrecht (1490-1545) stimulated far-reaching Renaissance changes. Joachim I brought well-known scholars to Berlin. Albrecht, who became Cardinal of Brandenburg, ordered religious works from the Cranach workshop, including the 1523/25 Passion series for his church in Halle. While Joachim I remained Catholic, his son Joachim II followed Luther in 1539 after his father’s death. His major rebuilding program for the palace on the Spree included the nearby Dominican Church, which was outfitted magnificently with reliquaries and epitaphs. He also commissioned a 1537/38 Cranach Passion series, more Lutheran in spirit than the earlier one at Halle.
Maria Dieter discusses the epitaphs funded by Berlin’s patricians for the Nicolaikirche. Beliefs regarding the Lord’s Supper are explained: Luther’s avowal of the literal presence of Christ in the Eucharist, emphasized in Brandenburg, is set against Calvin’s insistence on only a symbolic, spiritual presence. The continuing importance of ecclesiastical adornment is seen in the rich church interior, preserved in a 1616 epitaph for Johann Kötteritz and Caritas Distelmaier.
Andreas Cante lays archival groundwork for the study of various Renaissance artists in the employ of the Hohenzollerns: Jacopo De’ Barbari worked for Johann Cicero; Hans Hasenfleisch is recorded as painter to Joachim I; the Leipzig painter Hans Krell delivered no less than forty-nine works; Michel Ribestein’s monumental painted epitaphs reveal Classical and Italian influences with complex Lutheran iconography. From the late 1550’s, Italian painter Giovanni Battista Perini and architect Francesco Chiaramella were called in. The most significant Renaissance sculptor in Berlin was Hans Schenck (or Scheusslich).
Four essays focus on Cranach: Dieter Koepplin discusses Christ’s Descent into Limbo in the context of why Cranach’s workshop, which produced numerous Lutheran paintings, continued to create Catholic altarpieces for Joachim II, who had converted to the new faith. Martin Warnke sees a partly dead, but still sprouting tree-trunk painted by the aging Cranach in his 1546 Fountain of Youth (the year of Luther’s death) as a symbol of hope and renewal. In Werner Schade’s essay, Venus With a Jeweled Belt, long given to Cranach the Younger, is reattributed to a seventeenth-century follower, Heinrich Bollandt. And new results from technical studies of paintings by Cranach and his workshop are reviewed in a paper by conservators Mechthild Most and colleagues.
Two essays address architecture: Martin Müller uses seventeenth-century engravings of Brandenburg and images of castles and palaces in Cranach landscape backgrounds to reimagine buildings destroyed through renovations, expansions and wartime losses. Guido Hinterkeuser considers genealogical/dynastic relationships among ruling families in following the flow of architectural ideas between Saxony, Franconia and Berlin.
In an essay on Hohenzollern mortuary monuments from the Vischer workshop, Sven Hauschke notes similarities between the tomb sculpture of Frederick the Wise at Wittenberg, based on a drawing by Cranach, and the tomb sculpture of John Cicero in Berlin, conjecturing that Cranach also participated in the design of the latter. Horst Bredekamp and Eva Dolezel relate the Berlin Museums and Kunstkammer collections to an intellectual Utopia called Sophopolis, proposed by Swedish governor Bengt Skytte to Elector Friedrich Wilhelm in 1667.
Discussing the evolution of the Brandenburg court, Walter Neugebauer observes that palace construction grew from dynastic necessity. Even hunting lodges were used as council chambers. And Manfred Rudersdorf and Anton Schilling discuss the gradual conversion to Calvinism by Johann Sigismund in 1613, and the split – and finally accommodation – between the Electorate and patricians.
The catalog portion of the book has two sections, one for the Charlottenburg exhibition and one for the St. Marien exhibition – altogether eleven parts – each with an introductory chronology. The first part covers the ascendancy of the Hohenzollerns from 1515-1571, and includes major Cranach portraits of electors; a part on the Franconian lineage includes an impressive painted genealogical tree; among palace embellishments is the sole self-portrait by Cranach the Elder; church decorations include the Passion series; numerous artifacts exemplify the consolidation of the Reformation in Brandenburg from Johann Georg in 1571 through the 1620 death of Johann Sigismund, and the Hohenzollerns within the European power struggles of 1608-1620. The second section covers the collections of St. Marien church: spectacular works by Michel Ribestein and Hans Schenck; a 1563 manuscript testifying to Joachim II’s faith; letters from Philipp Melanchthon; and documents concerning Johann Sigismund’s conversion to Calvinism in 1613, with treatises on the use of images in this “Second Reformation.”
Gerd Bartoschek provides a valuable “Appendix” registry of Berlin Renaissance artists compiled from a 1786 document by Friedrich Nicolais. Finally, a Hohenzollern genealogical overview completes this handsome and scholarly catalog, which provides a wealth of fundamental resources for future research.