Lucas Cranach the Elder: life and works

By Gwylym Owen

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Lucas Cranach the Elder (German: Lucas Cranach der Ältere [ˈluːkas ˈkʁaːnax deːɐ̯ ˈʔɛltəʁə]; c. 1472 – 16 October 1553) was a German Renaissance painter and printmaker in woodcut and engraving. He was court painter to the Electors of Saxony for most of his career, and is known for his portraits, both of German princes and those of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, whose cause he embraced past enthusiasm. He was a near friend of Martin Luther. Cranach afterward painted religious subjects, first in the Catholic tradition, and innovative trying to locate new ways of conveying Lutheran religious concerns in art. He continued throughout his career to paint nude subjects drawn from mythology and religion.

Cranach had a large workshop and many of his works exist in stand-in versions; his son Lucas Cranach the Younger and others continued to create versions of his father’s works for decades after his death. He has been considered the most well-off German player of his time.

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