Incredibly erotic and philosophic art masteries from Gemaldegalerie Berlin, Stauche Museen zu Berlin
Like a theatrical play, Cranach staged his painting on the theme of man's longing for immortality and eternal youth. Man dreams of being able to leave his spent mortal frame, emerging rejuvenated, fresh and ready for action. The idea of the purifying forces of the elements, fire and water, is as old as mankind itself.
The image is centred around the so-called "Fountain of Youth". It is set in a detailed landscape, far from human settlements The course of events is read from left to right.
Old, frail women are brought along stony paths from the left, coming from a barren, rocky landscape. They come in carriages or carts, are carried, or make their own painful way, sustained by hope, to the pool. Others are being undressed and examined by the doctor. Some hesitate, or need to be persuaded. In the water itself they become visibly younger, and climb out on the right-hand side, fresh and youthful in form.
Here they are received by a cavalier and taken to a tent, where they are dressed again. After this they devote themselves to the joys of life, in new garments and festively adorned. All this cheerful activity, with eating, dancing, music and play love takes place in a blossoming landscape. This is the home eternal youth.
On the left-hand side one is reminded of old age and its complaints, symbolised by the barren rocky wilderness. Thus the elements of the landscape relate entirely to the events of the picture, and are subordinated to them.
The figures of Venus and Cupid can be seen on the fountain in the pool, indicating that this is a fountain of love the miracle-working power of love is the actual source of eternal youth. But it appears that only women need to bathe in the pool: the men rejuvenate themselves through contact with the women.
Lucas Cranach reinterpreted the old theme of the fountain of youth entirely in the spirit of the courtly taste of his princely patrons, turning it into a fountain of love, or of Venus.
Literature: Pastel Verlag, Gemaldegalerie Berlin, Stauche Museen zu Berlin, Old Master Paintings, Museum Guide, 2014