Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, c. 1535-1540
Lucas (the Elder) Cranach
oil on beech
84 x 118 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 3694)
The story of the adulterous woman is taken from St. John's Gospel in the New Testament. In the biblical text, a woman caught in the act of adultery has been brought to the Temple to be judged. According to Old Testament law, the punishment for this crime was death by stoning. However, when Jesus asks only those witnesses who are without sin to begin the execution, the group of accusers quickly disbands. Holding the hand of the accused, Jesus is seen here declaring to the scribes and Pharisees around him: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." The figure representing Jesus bears the tell-tale physical traits of one of Cranach's northern German countrymen.