Cranach.net is the research database of the Cranach Research Institute (CRI), a project of the Department of History of Art of the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design, which is dedicated to the digitization and indexing of the complete works of Lucas Cranach the Elder and his workshop. Michael Hofbauer is responsible for the project management. Work on the project mainly takes place online and is networked via a wiki, which all authorized academics’ texts and images are fed into and in which research related ideas can be exchanged-. A total of 2.893 articles (including monographic texts dealing with 2.342 paintings and 353 drawings) and 14.055 files have been uploaded since January 2010.
Initial Point and Objective
The current research concerning the work of Lucas Cranach deals with a quantity of important articles and new methods, which can hardly be perceived by an individual academic, while at the same time lacking a clear approach to collect and compare the great number of around 2.000 known works that are attributed to the Cranach circle in a single publication. The analysis and integration of the individual research components into a comprehensive survey will be the emphasis of future studies. The Cranach Research Institute feels committed to the methodical approach of linked-data and therefore has set up the research database cranach.net, in which all information and results are collected and complimented by the findings of material analysis, infrared reflectography, x-ray technology, computer tomography, and dendrochronology.
The idea for cranach.net dates back to the year 2007, when Michael Hofbauer realized the necessity for a centralized database collecting and reflecting the current state of research dealing with Lucas Cranach and his workshop. Until summer 2009 his data pool had grown to such an extent that he began his first trial runs with different database solutions. Rather than using costly and proprietary databases, a decision was made in autumn 2009 in favour of a media wiki freeware, which had proven useful for Wikipedia administrating millions of entries and files by thousands of authors.
After a test run the research database went online on 14th January 2010 under its current internet address and is being built up successively. A first focus was placed on the compilation of all known drawings by Cranach and his workshop. This project ended in late 2010 and resulted in the publication of the most comprehensive catalogue of Cranach’s drawings to-date. The current focus lies on recording the panel paintings. Since July 2011 the research project cranach.net has been managed by the Department of History of Art of the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design as well as Prof. Dr. Dr. Andreas Tacke, professor for history of art at Trier University. Heidelberg University Library has been operating as organizing institution since June 2012. The aim is a collaboration of art historians, historians, restorers and scientists as well as various museums to move research ahead by simplifying comparisons within a large set of data, which is gathered and studied collectively, enabling new ways of thinking. Presumably the growth of the database will not only mean a quantitative but also a qualitative increase in research activity, which will be of great importance for the art and culture historical evaluation of the extensive oeuvre of the Wittenberg Cranach workshop.
How does cranach.net work?
The MediaWiki software, which has proven to be a stable solution for long running projects, such as Wikipedia, serves as a working platform. The software offers a great variety of possibilities for presentation/display, linkage and discussions. It provides specialized areas for the linked organization of monographs and topics, for longer articles and reports, for discussions among participants and subject-related discourses, a commonly used image database, which can be freely categorized, and other areas, which can be structured individually. The specifically configured cloud server and the MsSqL database of cranach.net have been designed to administer practically an indefinite amount of texts and images. In contrast to Wikipedia, cranach.net is not open to amateurs; access authorization for reading and working on the content is granted only to academics, institutions and museums involved in the project.
To build an oeuvre database, it is necessary to create an article for each work of the Cranach circle and to sort the work by motif into the corresponding scheme and the article into the appropriate category. For further considerations concerning style and authorship it is necessary to collect not only works by the immediate members of the Cranach circle but also by followers, imitators and stylistically similar contemporaries. All annotations and documents concerned with style etc. are added to the appropriate article about the particular work.
The content of the wiki is continuously growing. At first it was sufficient to group the information in relatively simple categories and articles. The more content has been added, the more detailed the categorization has become. In the course of the project, further research possibilities were added to the database using tools such as full text and multiple category search functions, making comparative studies significantly easier.