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Title Study of Three Girls’ Heads
Collection Royal Cornwall Museum, Royal Institution of Cornwall, Truro
Artist Cranach, Lucas, the elder (German painter, draftsman, and printmaker, 1472-1553)
Date Earliest probably about 1520
Date Latest probably about 1530
Description A small painting of three female heads, one wearing an elaborate beaded headdress. The work is considered to have been a workshop pattern for other paintings. The work may originally have been larger - the headdress of the girl on the left is curtailed top and left. The flesh painting of the girl in the centre extends to the lower edge, but the other two seem not to have been painted below the line of the neck.
Current Accession Number TRURI:1828.4
Former Accession Number 1824.4
Subject portrait; mythology (Three Graces, Judgment of Paris)
Measurements 12.5 x 26.9 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on paper (laid on panel (hardwood {oak}))
Acquisition Details Given to the Cornwall Philosophical Institution by Dr. Lawrence Holker Potts, in or shortly before 1820.
Publications Dodgson, C., ‘A picture by Cranach at Truro', Burlington Magazine, XIV, December 1908, pp. 133-34, and ‘Postscript', Burlington Magazine, March 1909, p. 359, (both reprinted in Journal of the Royal Museum of Cornwall, XVII, 3 (1909), pp. 349-49); Wright, C., Old Master Paintings in Britain: An Index of Continental Paintings Executed Before c. 1800 in Public Collections in the United Kingdom, London, 1976, p. 45, as by Lucas Cranach I; Friedländer, M.J. & J. Rosenberg, Die Gemälde von Lucas Cranach, Berlin, 1932, p. 58 in reference to cat. no. 150; Friedländer, M.J. & J. Rosenberg, The paintings of Lucas Cranach, London, 1978, cat. no. 171 A, p. 104; Erichsen, J. in C. Grimm, J. Erichsen & E. Borckhoff, Lucas Cranach: Ein Maler-Unternehmer aus Franken, Augsburg, 1994, cat. no. 193, pp. 363-64; Campbell, L. and S. Foister ‘The Artists of ‘The North'', in D. Bomford (ed.), Art in the Making: Underdrawings in Renaissance Paintings, London, 2002, p. 45, fig. 75.

Inscriptions back of panel 'Heads by Kranach'; 'Kranach' (overlaying an unclear inscription in ink 'Mabifax';)

The work is cited in the list of accessions up to and including 1820: ‘Heads a study by Kranach ... Dr D. Potts', Annual Report of the Cornwall Philosophical Institution, August 27, 1821, p. 16.

In 1994 the work was the subject of a technical examination at the National Gallery. It was reported that black lines in the craquelure of the forehead of the central girl may have been caused by old attempts at cleaning, and that the necklace of the figure on the left and some parts of her headdress appeared to have been repainted. X-radiography showed that the composition was first blocked out with three oval shapes; the heads were under-drawn with a fluid medium. There were no significant alterations.

Cambell and Foister, p. 45, suggest the work functioned as a workshop pattern; these authors note its precise relationship with a version of the Three Graces by Cranach.

Friedländer and Rosenburg associated it with a group of portraits c. 1525 by (1978, cats. 171-74) which include the National Gallery's NG 291. The authors are uncertain if these works are intended as ‘fancy' portraits or portrait likenesses.

Dr Lawrence Holker Potts (1798-1850) was a founder member of the Cornwall Philosophical Institution (precursor to the present museum) and acted its secretary. He was superintendent of Cornwall Lunatic Asylum (1828-38).

Rights Owner Royal Cornwall Museum, Royal Institution of Cornwall, Truro
Author Dr Susan Steer



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