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The Serpent and the Lamb: Cranach, Luther, and the Making of the Reformation Hardcover – January 3, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Ozment describes Cranach’s many-faceted character . . . [and] makes a compelling case for Cranach’s importance as an artist and man of faith whose collaboration with the great Reformer was central to the spread of Protestantism.”—Debra Bendis, Christian Century
(Debra Bendis Christian Century)

"Ozment is determined to strip away the varnishes of 'a dark historiography' from Cranach and the early Reformation in order to reveal the artist standing in full light next to Martin Luther, not in any way obscured by his shadow. In this fascinating biography, it is not so much the influence of the Reformation on the arts that matters, but rather Cranach’s profound contributions to Reformation politics and culture. Ozment makes a bold claim for the transformative force of Cranach’s art."—David H. Price, author of Albrecht Dürer’s Renaissance: Humanism, Reformation and the Art of Faith 
(David H. Price)

“Applying a historian’s eye to one of the greatest artists of the Reformation, Ozment paints an absorbing portrait of a cultural giant at the heart of tumultuous events. Martin Luther could not have found a truer friend, or a more brilliant craftsman, to bring his image to the public gaze.”—Andrew Pettegree, University of St Andrews
(Andrew Pettegree)

“Ozment presents a compelling story of two great men of talent, Martin Luther and Lucas Cranach:  the spiritual revolutionary/writer, and the painter/illustrator. Their work and interaction brought about changes in the world—a freedom of expression affecting all of us right up until now.”—James Hendricks, University of Massachusetts Amherst 
(James Hendricks)

“Steven Ozment, master-historian of the Reformation, paints a broad and lively picture one of history’s most momentous—and most puzzling—collaborations. It comes as no surprise that Martin Luther changed the world, but that his incredible influence on the course of history was made possible largely through collaboration with his painter-friend Lucas Cranach: this is the surprising contention of this marvelously readable book.”—Joseph Leo Koerner, author of The Reformation of the Image
(Joseph Leo Koerner)

“A brilliant and novel treatment of Cranach and Luther and their collaborative leadership of the Reformation. With meticulous research and silken prose, Steven Ozment rescues both these luminaries from their many misguided modern critics. This book is the start to a new history of Reformation theology and of Renaissance art. A stunning read!”—John Witte, Jr., Emory University (John Witte, Jr.)

"There are few historians more likely than Steven Ozment to provoke intense debate with each new thought-provoking book. This study is no exception, reintroducing the court painter, Lucas Cranach, not only as an amazing and exceptional artist (which no one doubts), but also--and more surprisingly--as a tireless advocate and endlessly resourceful propagandist for Luther's Reformation. Must reading for students of the Renaissance and Reformation."—David C. Steinmetz, Duke University (David C. Steinmetz)

“Fascinating.”—European Histories
(European Histories)

“[An] intriguing account . . . a delightful and in-depth look . .  . packed with stunning images and brilliant analysis . . .  a sheer delight.”—Brian Odom, Washington Independent Review of Books
(Brian Odom Washington Independent Review of Books)

“Compelling . . . vigorously narrated . . . Ozment finds an inner logic to Cranach's life and work.”—Matt Lundin, Books & Culture
(Matt Lundin Books and Culture)

“Masterful . . . Steven Ozment does a wonderful job of delivering history with a style that keeps the reader reading.”—Chris Enstad, Englewood Review of Books
(Chris Enstad Englewood Review of Books)

“Carefully researched, elegantly written, spirited and provocative . . . Another of [this book’s] outstanding features is the selection of 77 black and white plates and 11 color plates, accompanied by Ozment’s invariably insightful and thought-provoking commentary.”—Denis R. Janz, America
(Denis R. Janz America)

"This work will be of great interest to all thosetheologians, historians of art, Christian ministers, or laypeoplewho seek to understand better the role of visual art in the spread of the Reformation, which has significant implications for the church's worship and work today."David McNutt, Anglican Theological Review
(David McNutt Anglican Theological Review)

About the Author

Steven Ozment is McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History, Harvard University. He is the author of ten books, including The Age of Reform, 1250–1550, which was a National Book Award finalist. He lives in Grantham, NH.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030016985X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300169850
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,221,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
I have always thought of Cranach primarily in relationship to other people, either in the shadow of Durer or Martin Luther, to be precise. A few years back I stood in front of the altar paintings Cranach painted in Wittenberg, Germany, and they remain some of the most vivid and memorable paintings I have ever encountered.

They made me wish to know more about the author. This book makes that happen. It is outstanding social history, examining the social economic situation that made Cranach's work, and especially his cooperative publishing work with Luther, possible, but then it also goes through Cranach's art, period by period, and offers historical and magisterial art interpretive insights.

There are plenty of prints in the book, interspersed black and white and a center section of color reproductions. The book would have benefited from even more. However, what is there suffices.

If you are interested in entering this Reformation period through a new door, this is the perfect book through which to enter.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best histories of the reformation I have ever read. The focus is on Cranach, and it does deal with his relationship to Luther, which was beneficial to both, but it concentrates on Cranach's contributions to the reformation. In doing this, Steve Ozment vindicates a man whose art, career and character have been unduly maligned over the years, showing him to be the genius that he most certainly was.
The book traces Cranach's career as an artist, from his early days as a protégé of Durer, to his end as a faithful subject of the Saxon rulers and child of the Reformation. Throughout the book are high quality pictures, and detailed explanations of the meaning of the art and what Cranach was trying to do.
Hired early on as court painter by Frederick the Wise, Cranach was in Wittenberg long before Luther and had a relationship with the Elector that allowed him to be a go between for Frederick and Luther. Cranach had earlier studied art up and down the Danube, and chased Durer for a while before developing his own style, that eschewed that of the contemporary Renaissance style, especially when it came to his representations of nudes.
A lot of time is dealt with Cranach's nudes, and understandably so. For one, Cranach was "King of the Nudes" in his day, thanks in large part to developing his own style that did not over sexualize the nude woman, and yet somehow made it more sensuous than if the sexual organs had been more dramatized. But Cranach also used the nude to promote Reformation theology especially as it dealt with family and sex motifs of a cultural revolution breaking free from a repressive Roman Catholic take on sex and family. In the Lutheran Reformation sex is good and to be celebrated between a man and his wife, it is what God wants of us.
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Wonderful art history.
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This book offered so much, and delivered astoundingly little.

Apart from the fact that the relationship between Luther and Cranach is poorly drawn (pardon the pun) and the period equally so, the author's style is simply lamentable. Beware any work of non-fiction where exclamation marks occur frequently (was is too much to expect just a well reasoned attempt at an interesting synthesis of a fascinating time and a marvellous artist?).

Let his words speak for themselves, and weep:
Page 3:" Among the profitable enterprises that made him rich and powerful were the city's only publishing house and a full-service pharmacy". The book is chock full of wince inducing anachronisms, of which full-service pharmacy is the first of many.

My personal favourite was on page 14: "Having sworn to himself as early as 1504-5 that he would paint in his own eclectic and expressive way, he now found himself measuring Durer's shoes and beginning to step on his toes". Aaaaaghhhhh.Visions of Cranach stretching one morning and saying " I swear today I will paint more eclectically and expressively".

Or how about page 188 "Smitten by her pluck, Cranach early admired and embraced Venus as a soul mate". Really. That sentence just about sums up this book: silly and fatuous.

Other annoyances include the frequent use of quotations which are unreferenced, which, as with the introduction being a cut and paste from the first chapter, underscores the strong likelihood that not only is the author generally illiterate but that he certainly spent far too little time checking his work.

The string of fellow travellers mouthing platitudes of praise on the back cover calls for an inverted bucket list of art historians/critics to be avoided.
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