Lucas Cranach the Elder / by Chris Hall

Lucas Cranach the Elder was a German Renaissance painter (c. 1472 – 1553).   He learned the art of drawing from his father, Hans Maler (incidentally, Maler means “painter” in German).  Cranach was known in his day for his portraits of German princes and the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, but is more known today for his earthier subjects, depicting classical mythology.  Cranach embraced the Protestant Reformation enthusiastically, and befriended the movement's leader, Martin Luther.  While Cranach did produce religious work, he did so with caution; during the early years of the Protestant Reformation, religious art, particularly icon painting, was looked upon as Catholic image idolatry.  Cranach had two sons and three daughters.  His two sons also became artists.  The bulk of Cranach's output depicts nude subjects drawn from mythology and religion, often shown with an eye toward innocence and naivety.  Sometimes, however, Cranach chose poses that were intentionally erotic, seductive, and even exhibitionist.

Cranach's liked paint the same subject matter over and over again.  It is interesting to me to see the same subject depicted by the same artist, looking for subtle differences between the works.  Here we have Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Lucas Cranach liked to paint mythological subjects from Classical Antiquity.  

Cranach also liked to paint old men seducing younger women.

Venus, often accompanied by Cupid, is a favorite subject of Cranach.

Cranach was also interested in the suicide of Lucretia.

Like many Renaissance painters, Cranach was obsessed with the Biblical femme fatales Salome and Judith.