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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Lucas Cranach the Elder

Lucas Cranach the Elder

Lucas Cranach the Elder

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472 – 1553) was a German Renaissance painter and printmaker in woodcut and engraving. He was court painter to the Electors of Saxony and is famous for his portraits of German princes and those of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, whose cause he embraced.

Cranach was a close friend of Martin Luther, and he is commemorated in the liturgical calendars of the Episcopal and Lutheran churches. Cranach also painted religious subjects, first in the Catholic tradition, and then later trying to find new ways of conveying Lutheran religious concerns in art.

Cranach had a large workshop, and many of his works exist in different versions. His son Lucas Cranach the Younger and others continued to create versions of his works for decades after his death. He is considered the most successful German artist of his time.

Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Art

  • Portrait of Martin Luther
    • “Portrait of Martin Luther” by Lucas Cranach the Elder shows the Protestant Reformer in three-quarter profile, wearing the distinctive black Protestant vestments. This painting on beech wood from 1533 was created by Lucas Cranach, the Elder, who was a close friend of Martin Luther and therefore a very accurate depiction.

      Cranach was the court painter to the electors of Saxony in Wittenberg, an area in the heart of the emerging Protestant faith. His patrons were influential supporters of Martin Luther, and Cranach used his art to support the new religion. Cranach made numerous portraits of Luther and provided woodcut illustrations for Luther’s German translation of the Bible. The oldest reference to Cranach in Luther’s correspondence dates from 1520. Museum: Germanisches Nationalmuseum

  • An ill-matched Pair
    • “An ill-matched Pair” by Lucas Cranach the Elder shows an old man with a white beard wearing a rich fur-trimmed cloak, holding hands and embracing a much young lady. The caricature-like distorted face of the older man is the image lecherousness. He is embracing a noticeably young woman, and the relationship could be interpreted as a harlot and her client, but it could also be a marriage of convenience. The lack of explicit erotic undertone points to an image of a couple.

      The subject of couples of different ages has a long tradition and was a favourite theme during the Lutheran Reformation. Cranach illustrated this topic in several paintings. This scene has a moralistic bent as it depicts the man lusting after a younger woman. The woman, with her tilted eyes staring at the viewer, is indicating that she is aware of the “ill-match” and is planning to take advantage of her wealthier partner. Museum: Germanisches Nationalmuseum

  • Portrait of Lucas Cranach the Elder
    • Portrait of Lucas Cranach the Elder depicts the painter aged 77, wearing a cloak of black brocade and a white shirt just visible at the neckline. He has short grey hair and a long split white beard. His steady gaze and his serious expression portray seriousness and dignity. Cranach’s shadow is cast over his left shoulder, and a strange marking floats above his right shoulder. Museum:       Uffizi Gallery

Portrait of Lucas Cranach the Elder

  • Title:               Portrait of Lucas Cranach the Elder
  • Artist:             Lucas Cranach the Elder
  • Date:              1550
  • Medium:         oil on panel
  • Dimensions:   Height: 64 cm (25.1 ″); Width: 49 cm (19.2 ″)
  • Museum:        Uffizi Gallery

Lucas Cranach the Elder

A Tour of Artists

Reflections

  • “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” – Martin Luther

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“God does not need your good works, but your neighbour does.”
– Martin Luther

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Photo Credit: 1)Lucas Cranach the Elder [Public domain]

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