CRANACH, Lucas, The Elder

(1472-1553)
German painter and printmaker Lucas Cranach, along with rival artist Hans Burgkmair,* is credited with inventing the chiaroscuro woodcut, a medium Cranach perfected. Born in Kronach, Lucas succeeded several generations of paint­ers, including his father, Hans Maler, who trained the artist. Settling in Vienna, a humanist center, Cranach painted an extraordinary pair of marriage portraits of Dr. Johannes Cuspinian and his wife, Anna Cuspinian. Set in a landscape depicting the four elements—air, earth, water, and fire—various motifs allude to the humanist Cuspinian's interest in cosmography, as well as Christian sym­bolism.
Cranach moved to Wittenberg to become court painter to Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony, who was Martin Luther's* benefactor. Luther became a close friend, serving as witness to Cranach's wedding in 1525 and godfather to his children, an honor Cranach reciprocated. After returning from a diplomatic mis­sion to the Netherlands, Cranach painted a large altarpiece of the Holy Kinship for Frederick, no doubt influenced by Quentin Massys's* Antwerp altarpiece of the same subject. The painting represents the genealogy of the holy family en­acted by the imperial family, including likenesses of Frederick, his brother Duke John the Steadfast, and Emperor Maximilian. As part of another major court commission, Cranach contributed eight pages to the grandiose Prayerbook of Maximilian.
Cranach was in Wittenberg on All Saints' Eve in 1517 when Luther posted his ninety-five theses. After his excommunication at the Diet of Worms in 1521, Luther returned to Wittenberg in the guise of Jonker Jorg, an aristocratic knight, and was arrested there on Whitsuntide. Among Cranach's many likenesses of Luther, one of his most compelling is his representation of the Protestant leader as Jonker Jorg, in woodcut and panel. Cranach played a more direct role in the Protestant Reformation in 1519 when he designed the first Reformation broad­sheet, the "Furhwagen" (Chariot to Heaven and Chariot to Hell). Cranach also illustrated the Book of Revelation for Luther's first edition of his translation of the New Testament, the ''September Testament'' in 1522, with woodcuts in­spired by Albrecht Dürer's* Apocalypse woodcut series. A new subject reflecting Protestant views originated in Cranach's workshop. Allegory of the Law and the Gospel, painted in 1529, illustrates Luther's tenet of redemption through faith, defining the Law under Moses as one of judgment and punishment, while under the Gospel, as forgiving and merciful. In the altarpiece, bifurcated by a central tree, dead branches and a nude man damned to hell for his sin of idolatry symbolize the Old Law under Moses. On the right side, the tree rejuvenates into the Tree of Life, and the same nude man is redeemed through Christ's sacrificial crucifixion. Cranach is equally renowned for his depictions of mythological subjects, developing a distinctive idealized version of the female nude—soft and willowy, the antithesis of the classical nude—who emanates both innocence and sensuality.
Cranach continued to immortalize the Saxon court in portraits throughout his life. After Charles V* defeated and imprisoned John Frederick, a leader of the Schmalkaldic League, in 1547, Cranach remained loyal to the Saxon noble, following him to Weimar upon his release, where the artist died at the age of eighty-one in 1553.
Bibliography
A. Stepanov, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1997.
Susan H. Jenson

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cranach, Lucas, the Elder — orig. Lucas Müller born 1472, Cranach, bishopric of Bamberg died Oct. 16, 1553, Weimar, Saxe Weimar German painter and printmaker. He took his name from the town of his birth. Little is known about his early life or training. In Vienna (с… …   Universalium

  • Lucas Cranach the Elder — Portrait of Lucas Cranach the Elder at age 77 by Lucas Cranach the Younger (1550), at the Uffizi Gallery, Florence Birth name Lucas Maler …   Wikipedia

  • Cranach, Lucas — (the Elder, 1472 1553)    German painter, print maker, and illustrator of books. He was born at Kronach in Bavaria and trained by his father but came under the influence of the greatest German Renaissance artist, Albrecht Dürer. He lived for… …   Historical Dictionary of Renaissance

  • Cranach, Lucas —    [the elder] (1472 Kronach 10/16/1553) (Germany); aka Sunder, Lucas / Mueller, Lucas / Chronus, Lucas    Painter, copper engraver, woodcut printmaker, and illustrator. Little is known of his early development. Became court painter in Wittenberg …   Dictionary of erotic artists: painters, sculptors, printmakers, graphic designers and illustrators

  • Cranach the Elder, Lucas — (1472 1553)    One of the leading painters of the Danube School, Lucas Cranach the Elder was born in Kronach, Germany, and trained by his father Hans, who was also an artist. He is known to have been in Vienna in c. 1502 when he painted the… …   Dictionary of Renaissance art

  • Cranach,Lucas — Cra·nach (kräʹnäKH), Lucas. Known as “the Elder.” 1472 1553. German painter and engraver noted for his many portraits and religious works, some of which depict the theological views of his friend Martin Luther. * * * …   Universalium

  • Robert Peake the Elder — (c. 1551 – 1619) was an English painter active in the later part of Elizabeth I s reign and for most of the reign of James I. In 1604, he was appointed picture maker to the heir to the throne, Prince Henry, and in 1607, serjeant painter to King… …   Wikipedia

  • elder — elder1 /el deuhr/, adj. a compar. of old with eldest as superl. 1. of greater age; older. 2. of higher rank; senior: an elder officer. 3. of or pertaining to former times; earlier: Much that was forbidden by elder custom is accepted today. n. 4.… …   Universalium

  • Lucas — /looh keuhs/, n. 1. George, born 1945, U.S. film director. 2. a male given name, form of Luke. * * * (as used in expressions) Cranach Lucas the Elder Lucas Müller Lucas Huyghszoon van Leyden Lucas George Lucas Robert E. Jr. Elizabeth Lucas * * * …   Universalium

  • Cranach — /krddah nahkh/, n. 1. Lucas ( the Elder ), 1472 1553, German painter and graphic artist. 2. his son, Lucas the Younger, 1515 86, German painter and graphic artist. Also, Kranach, Kronach. * * * …   Universalium


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.