The Politics of Culture in Three Early Images of Luther

Lucas_Cranach_d.Ä._-_Martin_Luther_1528_Veste_Coburg_cropped-388x220Brian Cummings at Marginalia:

Images of Martin Luther abound in his anniversary year, and they tend to conform to a type. Deutsche Bahn, the German railway company, has gone for the bronze statue that stands beneath the Rathaus in Wittenberg. Luther is in a cage, perhaps sensibly, about thirty yards from Philipp Melanchthon. Melanchthon looks pained, as ever, but at least he is out of earshot. Luther holds a Bible out for people in the marketplace to see. The statue is nineteenth-century, the work of Johann Schadow, a friend of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. There are Luther Denkmäler like this all over Germany. Otherwise, for the new biographies sprouting everywhere, the cover of choice tends to be one of the portraits by Lucas Cranach the Elder from the late 1520s or 1530s. The criterion for the five-hundredth anniversary, as ever, is safety first: the images are correspondingly solid, reliable, recognizably German, dignified if not obviously pious, and above all fat. Even Playmobil Luther, more popular among theologians and academics than children, is Fat Luther with a Book.

The other striking aspect of the proliferating Luther icons is that they are conspicuously lacking in aesthetic appeal. There is an interesting bias at work here, observable from Cranach onwards.

more here.