Lucas Cranach 'the Elder' (1472-1553). German painter. He takes his name from the small town of Kronach in South Germany, where he was born.

 Very little is known of his life before about 1500-01, when he settled in Vienna and started working in the humanist circles associated with the newly founded university. His stay in Vienna was brief (he left in 1504), but in his period there he painted some of his finest and most original works. They include portraits and several religious works in which he shows a remarkable feeling for the beauty of landscape characteristic of the Danube school. The finest example of this manner is perhaps the "Rest on the Flight into Egypt", which shows the Holy Family resting in the glade of a German pine forest. It was painted in 1504, just before Cranach went to Wittenberg as court painter to Frederick III ('the Wise'), Elector of Saxony.

Cranach remained in Wittenberg until 1550, when he followed John Frederick ('the Unfortunate'), the last Saxon Elector of the Ernestine branch, into exile, in Augsburg. During his time in Wittenberg he became extremely wealthy and one of the city's most respected citizens, serving as burgomaster for several years. His paintings were eagerly sought by collectors, and his busy studio often produced numerous replicas of popular designs, particularly those in which he showed his skill at depicting female beauty. Cranach excelled at female nudes, which sometimes draw on Italian Renaissance models, but totally different in spirit. He also had a penchant for pictures of coquettish women wearing large hats.

Cranach continued with his religious work, but his woodcut designs (notably those for the first German edition of the New Testament in 1522) are generally more interesting that his paintings in this sphere. He also painted several portraits of Martin Luther. Despite his allegiance to the Protestant cause, he continued to work for Catholic patrons and was a very astute businessman. During the last years of his life Cranach was assisted by his son, Lucas Cranach 'the Younger' (1515-86), who carried on the tradition of the workshop and imitated his father's style so successfully that it is often difficult to distinguish between their hands.


"Portraits of Henry the Pious, Duke of Saxony and his wife Katharina von Mecklenburg" (1514) Oil on canvas transferred from wood, 184 x 82.5 cm - 72.4 x 32.5 in (each). Gemäldegalerie, Dresden, Germany.



"Christ and the Adulteress" (1532) Oil on panel, 82.5 x 121 cm - 32.5 x 47.6 in. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, Hungary.



"Portrait of Martin Luther" (1525) Oil on wood. Bristol Museums & Art Gallery, Bristol, UK.



"Triptych with the Holy Kinship" (1509) Oil on panel, 120 x 99 cm - 47.2 x 39 in (central panel); 120 x 43.5 cm - 47.2 x 17.1 in (each wing). Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, Germany.



"The Rest on the Flight into Egypt" (1504) Oil on wood, 69 x 51 cm - 27.2 x 20.1 in. Staatliche Museen, Berlin-Dahlem, Germany.



"Hunt in Honour of Charles V at the Castle of Torgau" (1544) Oil on panel, 114 x 175 cm - 44.9 x 68.9 in. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

Text source: 'Webmuseum' (

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Related Terms: Renaissance.


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