German Old Master sells for record €12.9m

Lucas Cranach the Elder's famous work La Bocca Della Verita set a new record price for the Old Master's works in London on Wednesday night, fetching £9.3 million (€12.1 million) at the Sotheby's auction house.

German Old Master sells for record €12.9m
Detail from Lucas Cranach the Elder's La Bocca Della Verita (The Mouth of Truth). Image: Sotheby's

The painting, known as “The Mouth of Truth” or “The Adulteress” in English, was painted between 1525 and 1528 and depicts a woman placing her hand in the mouth of a lion statue in a test to determine whether she's telling the truth.

“This is a very well-known painting, which has only changed hands once in recent decades,” Benjamin Spira, co-curator of the Cranach exhibition at the Schloss Friedenstein Gotha Foundation told The Local.

“Old masters of this quality very rarely come onto the market, and that shows with this record price for Cranach – more than twice the previous price for one of his works.”

Sotheby's catalogue entry showed that the painting had most recently been exhibited in Frankfurt and Brussels at exhibitions in 2007-08 and 2010-11.

“It's always very interesting for potential buyers if a painting has been displayed in public and researched thoroughly,” Spira noted.

The subject of the painting refers to a stone mask of an ancient river God that stands in the porch of the Basilica Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome.

It was said that anyone who did not speak the truth while their hand was in the statue's mouth would lose it.

Cranach's painting depicts the story of an accused adulteress who came up with a plan to dupe her judges.

In the tale, she had her lover dress up as a fool, and told him to touch her at the moment she placed her hand in the mouth of the statue, so that she could declare “I have never been touched by any man other than my husband and this fool here.”

Details visible in Cranach's version include the judges conferring on the left of the scene, the fool embracing the adulteress from behind and the husband dressed in black on the right.

The theme from ancient history was depicted several times in the Renaissance, Spira  said.

“Cranach may have been the first painter north of the Alps to paint it,” he added.

“He translated several themes from minor art forms like printed graphic works into painting.”


Lucas Cranach d. Ä. 063” by Lucas Cranach the Younger – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Sotheby's had expected the work to sell for up to £8 million, or €11.13 million.

But Bloomberg reported that despite the work overshooting its asking price, it fell well short of contemporary artists such as Takashi Murakami and Damien Hirst, who continue to dominate the market at the moment.

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German tourists among 13 dead in Italy cable car accident

Thirteen people, including German tourists, have been killed after a cable car disconnected and fell near the summit of the Mottarone mountain near Lake Maggiore in northern Italy.

German tourists among 13 dead in Italy cable car accident
The local emergency services published this photograph of the wreckage. Photo: Vigili del Fuoco

The accident was announced by Italy’s national fire and rescue service, Vigili del Fuoco, at 13.50 on Sunday, with the agency saying over Twitter that a helicopter from the nearby town of Varese was on the scene. 

Italy’s National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps confirmed that there were 13 victims and two seriously injured people.

Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that German tourists were among the 13 victims.

According to their report, there were 15 passengers inside the car — which can hold 35 people — at the time a cable snapped, sending it tumbling into the forest below. Two seriously injured children, aged nine and five, were airlifted to hospital in Turin. 

The cable car takes tourists and locals from Stresa, a resort town on Lake Maggiore up to a panoramic peak on the Mottarone mountain, reaching some 1,500m above sea level. 

According to the newspaper, the car had been on its way from the lake to the mountain when the accident happened, with rescue operations complicated by the remote forest location where the car landed. 

The cable car had reopened on April 24th after the end of the second lockdown, and had undergone extensive renovations and refurbishments in 2016, which involved the cable undergoing magnetic particle inspection (MPI) to search for any defects. 

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Twitter that he expressed his “condolences to the families of the victims, with special thoughts for the seriously injured children and their families”.

Infrastructure Minister Enrico Giovannini told Italy’s Tg1 a commission of inquiry would be established, according to Corriere della Sera: “Our thoughts go out to those involved. The Ministry has initiated procedures to set up a commission and initiate checks on the controls carried out on the infrastructure.”

“Tomorrow morning I will be in Stresa on Lake Maggiore to meet the prefect and other authorities to decide what to do,” he said.