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Studying for a test? Prepare with these 9 lessons on Northern Renaissance: 1500s.
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(piano music) Man: Pleasure often comes with a cost, with a little pain. Lucas Cranach the elder reminds us of us of that in his painting, Cupid Complaining to Venus. Woman: We see Cupid who has reached for a honeycomb only to be stung by a whole set of bees. He's looking up at Venus his mother in pain as though he's pleading for her sympathy. Man: She doesn't seem to be paying attention to him at all however. Instead, she is looking out at us as a sultry seducer. Woman: There is no denying the eroticism of this painting, of her body, of her look toward us, the way that she positions her legs between that branch, the way that she reaches up toward the apples on the tree, reminding us of Eve and the Garden of Eden. Man: So this is really a bit of a composite. You have on the one hand this reference back to antiquity. You have Venus the goddess of love and beauty. You have her son Cupid. These are all classical references. In fact, in the top you have a translation from the Latin, which actually speaks to the relationship between pain and pleasure, yet we also have this very dramatic image with this dark forest on the left and fashions actually that relate to the Saxon court. Woman: Cranach was court painter to the electors, the rulers of Saxony. Man: Who actually commissioned this painting. Woman: And so the woman here, Venus, although she's the pagan goddess of love as you said, is wearing the headdress and necklaces of an Aristocratic woman at the court in Saxony. Man: It's a little bit vampy to have this nude woman wear both jewelry and that wild headdress. Woman: And be utterly nude otherwise. Man: Yeah it is. She is painted so seductively that he really is challenging us with the moral issues of our lust. Woman: Of whether the pleasure is worth the pain. Man: Exactly. Woman: So on the left we have a German forest with stag and a doe and on the right a very deep landscape with a lovely reflection in the river. Man: You can see in that water two swans and the reflection of a house with a red roof. Beyond that is wonderfully fanciful cliffs and there is a castle up at the top. There is a house that is cantilevered over on the right side. Woman: And the castle on the river itself. Man: With the beautiful reflection in that still water. Woman: This is an Aristocratic image. This is an image of castles on rivers. It feels German to me in so many ways. The forest, the rivers, the castles. Man: And yet in the foreground you have this wonderful classicized literary reference. And it's not only sexual but it's also really playful. Let's not forget about the complaining infant. (piano music).