While much of the artist's work included mythological scenes and religious images, thanks to his close friendship with the leader of the German reformation, Martin Luther, A Princess of Saxony is of a different style and is one of many royal portraits painted by Cranach. Born in c.1472, Cranach's skill came to the attention of Duke Frederick III, Elector of Saxony who appointed Cranach as a painter to his court in Wittenburg in 1504. Many of Cranach's portraits are of members of the Elector's family and although it is not certain who the subject is, it is assumed A Princess of Saxony is no exception.
Painted around the year 1517, A Princess of Saxony has a companion piece in A Prince of Saxony and one theory is that the portraits are of a brother and sister. However it is more likely that the boy in A Prince of Saxony is Johann, Duke of Saxony (1498 - 1537) and the subject of A Princess of Saxony is his wife, Elisabeth of Hesse.
Measuring 43.4cm x 34.3cm, A Princess of Saxony is done in oils on panel and like many of Cranach's portraits it enjoys a bold composition and strong colors. The portrait depicts a young girl with her fair hair loose around her shoulders. She wears what has become known as the Cranach gown due to it being featured in so many of his portraits. The style includes tight, slashed sleeves, a gathered skirt and lacing across a panel on the front. Although A Princess of Saxony is not a full-length portrait, the sleeves and lacing are evident. The usual style of the Cranach gown is to have black lacing, but unusually the gown of A Princess of Saxony has red lacing.
As one of the key painters of the German renaissance, Cranach's work continues to inspire artists to this day. Artists including Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol have made use of his motifs, showing a particular interest in how Cranach portrayed women. Today A Princess of Saxony has traveled far from Wittenburg where it was painted and can be seen in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA.