Lucas Cranach the Elder was a painter in a time of change, the transition between the declining Middle Ages and the emergent Renaissance. His painting reflects a new age of great versatility. He painted seductive Venuses but also contentious pictures of Martin Luther, penetrating portraits and exquisite nature studies.
His painting The Ill-Matched Couple has been in Swedish hands since 1632, when our soldiers captured it from the Emperor Maximilian in Munich. The painting is inscribed with a date 1532, right next to the edge of the frame, to the right of the Parmesan cheese. Under the date is Cranach's distinctive signature, the tiny figure of a winged dragon. The painting depicts two of the seven deadly sins: lust and greed - the lust of an old man and the greed of a young woman. The theme is driven home by a large number of symbols. Love is being bought for money. The scales and the coins tell us that, and the message is underscored by the objects lined up in front of the couple: the grapes and the pomegranate - desire and fertility - but also the ambiguity of the situation, with the flies moving unmolested over the white breadcloth, the Parmesan cheese and the bottle-glass windowpanes.
The ill-matched couple, Lucas Cranach the Elder.