Like father, like son

Would the artists of that time have gone to more trouble in naming them if they had known that naming the son (the younger) after the father (the older) makes life difficult for the scientists of today? Only historians who deal with the family members of the high nobility have it even harder with all the many Charlemagne, Charles, Louis, etc.

Like father, like son

Today, art history has two Lucas Cranachs (1472-1553 and 1515-1586), two Georg Brentels (1525/30-1610 and 1581-1634), three Pieter Brueghels (1525/30-1569, 1564-1638 and 1589-1640) and four Jan Brueghels (1568-1625, 1601-1678, 1647-1719, 1628- after 1664), whereby the last two were still given the nicknames Baptist and Peeter, respectively. Fortunately, the two Brentels are somewhat apart in time, and the Brueghels, too, can be easily distinguished on the basis of the different styles in which they painted.

The two Cranachs, however, give real reason to bite their teeth. They are partly so similar in their way of painting that it is no longer possible today to say for certain which of them made them. In addition, her workshop had numerous employees who copied popular pictorial themes several times. The masters then only put the finishing touches. This approach was efficient – the high demand would otherwise not have been manageable – and profitable. Anyone who couldn’t afford a hundred percent Cranach still had the opportunity to buy a picture from the workshop for less money, in which the master had at least immortalized himself with a few brushstrokes. So the signature was more brand names than attribution. – Just as Karl Lagerfeld does not sew any of his designed garments himself today, even if his name is on the label. (The overview of the paintings on is very revealing – there you can find, for example, the motif of Christ and the Children shown here 40 times). And those who couldn’t afford Cranach bought a copy – whereby even more “Cranach” pictures were thrown onto the market, which today cannot or only with difficulty be exposed as forgeries.

Like the master, like the apprentice

Many famous artists have had students who later became successful themselves, but during their apprenticeship copied the style of their teachers so exactly as part of their training that many a picture can no longer be assigned with certainty. And great masters also had students who did not follow in their footsteps with regard to fame, but with regard to the style of painting. During my studies I found it very fascinating when the picture of the master already showed the cooperation of a future artist. Especially if you are still in training yourself and sometimes doubt your abilities, it is good to know that even the greatest geniuses have not been successful with talent alone and would not have become the superstars they became without the appropriate training.

Student: Raphael – Teacher: Perugino

If these two pictures were part of a memory game, you could think of them as a match at first glance. No wonder, since the young Raphael has not only taken over the motif, but also the picture design almost one-to-one from his teacher Perugino: the semicircular end, which overlaps the dome building in the background at the upper edge of the picture, the wide square in the middle ground with a few staffage figures and the group of people in the foreground, who are actually the focus of attention. Their living models all seem to come from one family, with their round, almost doll-like faces. But Raphael also does things differently: his picture has more depth overall, with Perugino everything seems more compact. The younger painter’s painting also appears more animated, which is not only due to the brighter colours. Do you like how he does it compared to Perugino? It’s not so much what he does differently, but the little has a big effect.

The priest, who is standing in the middle of the group and is bringing the hands of the two married couples together, is a particularly good example of this. In Perugino’s work, he stands exactly in the middle of the overall very symmetrically composed picture. It is so perfectly straight that one could cut it through in the middle and mirror one half of the body. It doesn’t take an expert’s eye to see that this is different with Raphael. With him, the body of the Servant of God inclines slightly to the right – an attitude that not only seems more animated, but also more natural than Perugino’s rigidity.

If we look at the supporting figures next to the three main actors, we can see in both cases that they are in motion here and there: There are different postures, gestures, lines of sight, which can be seen here.