Lucas Cranach the Elder images
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Lucas Cranach the Elder

See also: Renaissance Artists


Lucas Cranach the Elder: German painter, etcher and woodcut designer. He was named after Kronach in southern Germany, presumably his place of birth. His early years are obscure, but by c1500, he seems to have settled in Vienna. Here he associated with the humanists of the recently founded university, and two particularly fine portraits, of a university lecturer and his wife, date from this period (Johannes Cuspinian and Anna, both Winterthur, Reinhart Collection). In Vienna Cranach also painted his earliest known religious subjects, of a type which associates him with the Danube School, the paintings usually being set in vast pine woods and mountainous landscapes (e.g. Rest on the Flight into Egypt, 1504, Berlin). By c1505 he had transferred to Wittenberg, securing appointment as court painter to the electors of Saxony. He was ennobled, served as burgomaster for some years, and ran a large and flourishing workshop, which included an apothecary, printing works and bookshop.

In Wittenberg Cranach became close friends with Martin Luther, painting several portraits of him and designing propaganda woodcuts for him. These woodcuts, among the best of his later works, include the illustrations for the first German translation of the New Testament in 1522. His commitment to Protestantism did not, however, preclude him from working for Catholic patrons. A fine portraitist, he appears to have been one of the first to paint, or perhaps was the inventor of, the full-length independent portrait (e.g. The Duke of Saxony and The Duchess, 1514, Dresden, Gemädegalerie), these works pre-dating the earliest Italian examples, such as those by Moretto. Another genre developed by Cranach was that of the erotic nude, particularly popular with the private collectors who formed the bulk of his clientele. Usually in some mythological guise or another, the figures represent nymphs or goddesses, sometimes wearing only a very elaborate plumed hat and some jewellery, calculated to further enhance the nudity (e.g. The Judgement of Paris, c1530, New York, Metropolitan Museum). His paintings are signed with a distinctive winged snake and the monogram LC, although this does not guarantee that the work is not just a shop piece. His two sons, Hans (d 1537) and Lucas the Younger (1515-86), followed his style and continued the family workshop.

- From The Bulfinch Guide to Art History

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Lucas Cranach the Elder images

c. 1530 Judith Victorious
c. 1530 Venus and Cupid
1538 The Lamentation
1533 Lucretia

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