Artists Illustrating Boys' Fashions: Lucas Cranach the Elder (Germany, 1472-1553)



Figure 1.--This Saxon prince was painted in 1517. It may be the son of Frederick III. A companion piece was made of the boys's sister at the same time. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

German painter Lucas Cranach (the Elder) a Renaissance painter and graphic artist who excelled in portraits and in female nudes. He was one of the most influential German artists of the 16th century. He is one of the best known artists of the Danube School. Cranach takes his name from the small town of Kronach in South Germany, where he was born. Very little his known about Cranach before the turn of the 16th century. He settled in Vienna and began working in the intelectual circles associated with the newly founded university. Cranach went to Wittenberg as court painter to Frederick III (the Wise), Elector of Saxony. It was there he painted matching portraits of a Saxon Prince and Princess.

Childhood

German painter Lucas Cranach (the Elder) takes his name from the small town of Kronach in Franconia (southern Germany), where he was born sometinmr around 1472. His father was also an artist and he almost certainly studied painting with his father It was common for a boy to follow in his father's footsteps and indeed his own son became an accomplished paonter. Very little his known about Cranach before the turn of the 16th century.

Vienna

Cranach settled in Vienna and began working in the intelectual circles associated with the newly founded university. He only stayed in Vienna for a few years, leaving in 1504. Despite tghe short stay, it was during this period that he painted some of his greatest, most original works. They include portraits and several religious works in which he shows a wonderfull feeling for landscape painting. This is characteristic of the Danube school.

Saxony

Cranach in 1504 went to Wittenberg as court painter to Frederick III (the Wise), Elector of Saxony. Cranach remained in Wittenberg until 1550. Faithful to the elector John Frederick, who was accused of treason by Emperor Charles V, Cranach followed him during 1550 in his exile at Augsburg, Innsbruck, and Weimar, where he died in 1553. John Frederick (the Unfortunate) was the last Saxon Elector of the Ernestine branch. While he was in Wittenberg, the sucess of his painting made him very wealthy and a vert most respected citizen of the city. He served as burgomaster for several years. His paintings were very popular. His busy studio often produced numerous replicas of popular designs. Thus there are many surviving examples of the same work. He did many nude works and coquettish women wearing large hats. He also did many woodcuts. notably those for the first German edition of the New Testament in 1522).

He was committed to the Protestant cause and did several portraits of Martin Luther who he was friendly with. Cranach's art, perhaps excepting the nudes, is seen as expresses spirit and feeling of the German Reformation. Luther became godfather to Cranach's daughter, Anna. Cranach became godfather to Luther's first son. Despite his Protestant alegiance, he did not hesitate to accept commisions from Catholic patrons.

Saxon Princes and Princess

It was in Saxony during 1517 that he painted a wonderful pair of portatits of a Saxon Prince and Princess. Presumabaly they are the children of Frederick III. He painted three Saxon Princesses (Sibyl, Emilia and Sidonia of Saxe) about 1530).

Family

His two sons Hans (1513- ) and Lucas (the younger) (1515-86) were born in Wittenberg. Both followed in their father's footsteps and became artists, with Lucas beening the most successfull. Cranach's daughters Ursula and Barbara was born in 1517 and 1519. Cranach during the later years was assisted by his son, Lucas the Younger. I know of no paintings of his children when they were young. Lucas carried on the tradition of the workshop and imitated his father's style. He was very successful mat this at it is almost impossible to distinguish the works of father and son.







Christopher Wagner





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Created: July 28, 2001
Last updated: July 28, 2001