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Lucas Cranach d.Ä.

Lucas Cranach the Elder was born in Cronach in 1472. He probably received his first training from his father. During his later wanderings, he seems to have had contact with Upper German workshops (influences of Dürer and Althofer appeared in his work). Around 1500 he appears as a painter in Vienna. Especially his landscapes, but also his portraits made him famous. He also successfully managed to establish nude painting in Germany under the guise of mythological themes. In 1504 he became court painter to the Elector Frederick the Wise in Wittenberg.
Around 1512 Lucas Cranach married the daughter Barbara of the mayor of Gotha Jobst Brengebier. From this marriage came three children, Barbara, Lucas and Anna. Martin Luther was Anna's godfather.
Cranach was raised to the nobility by his patron. The Elector also gave Cranach his coat of arms, the winged serpent, which from then on appeared as a signature on all his paintings. However, Cranach was not only a painter, but also a businessman and pharmacist. On December 6, 1520, Lucas Cranach the Elder received an electoral pharmacy privilege and thus a very solid business foundation. His well-performing mini-enterprise (Cranach ran a pharmacy, a printing house and a bookstore) gave him considerable influence in the city and allowed him to be elected mayor twice in Wittenberg.


As a painter, Cranach was versatile. In addition to painting, he was also active as a draftsman, illustrator, woodcut designer and engraver. His works were colorful and detailed. After 1518, he set up an almost factory-like workshop operation, in which his sons also participated. Unfortunately, this mass production was very detrimental to the originality of his paintings and his reputation as a painter.

Cranach was friends with Martin Luther, whose theses appealed to him. He and his wife Barbara were witnesses at Luther's wedding. Almost all of the pictures of Martin Luther were made by Lucas Cranach. He actively supported the Reformation during his time in Wittenberg. Consequently, at the age of 78, he voluntarily followed his Elector John Frederick the Magnanimous into captivity in Augsburg in 1550 and to Innsbruck in 1551. At this point, his son Lucas Cranach the Younger took over the workshop and business (including the pharmacy). Released from the elector's service in 1552, he moved to Weimar to join his daughter Barbara.

Lucas Cranach the Elder died on 16.10.1553 in Weimar.

Cranachhof Wittenberg

Cranachhof in Wittenberg, view of the studio

He created the image of "Mary Help of Christians" in 1537. It has been in Innsbruck since 1650.

Cover image: Detail from "The Blessing of the Children" by Lucas Cranach, "LET THE CHILDREN COME TO ME, AND DON'T DESERVE THEM, THAT SUCH IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD, MARC. X"