Frederick the Wise was a leading patron of the visual arts in the early decades of the sixteenth century. This essay examines the Saxon elector’s choice of St. Bartholomew as his holy protector and promotion of the martyred saint in painting and the graphic arts as a leading intercessor for the Christian faithful. Frederick’s personal devotion to St. Bartholomew is examined as a microcosm of the apostle’s cult following on the eve of the Reformation. St. Bartholomew’s legendary noble status and popular veneration in Germany as a plague intercessor and protector of those in dire circumstances likely recommended him to Elector Frederick, whose ancestors likewise demonstrated a devotional affinity for the apostle. Lucas Cranach’s engraving Frederick the Wise Venerates His Patron St. Bartholomew can be viewed within the broader context of the elector’s ongoing efforts to promote in the visual media the cult of saints and relics as well as the dynastic cult of the House of Saxony.
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