Artwork of the Week – November 10, 2019
School of Lucas Cranach (1472-1553), Fall and Redemption of Man, early 16th century, oil on canvas, 38 x 106 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of Karel Waterman, 1962.
On this day in 1483, Martin Luther was born in Eislenben, Saxony, in the Holy Roman Empire, now modern-day Germany. His academic training, combined with his careful and faithful study of the bible, ignited within him a strong desire to clarify the Church’s beliefs about faith, grace, and salvation. Known now as the Father of the Reformation, his actions set in motion tremendous reform and schisms within Christianity.
Rich in symbolic figures and narratives, this painting asserts Luther’s doctrine that salvation is obtained through faith in Christ and His grace, and rejects the Catholic belief that works determine salvation. At center, a young man—representing every man or woman—sits between Moses, representing the Mosaic law of ritual and actions as a means for salvation, and John the Baptist who indicates that faith in the Savior marks the pathway to heaven. Throughout the painting, scriptural motifs from the Old and New Testaments emphasize the limitations of deeds alone and the redemptive power of grace.