The renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder
The world-famous renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder was born in Kronach in 1472 as Lucas Maler. Like many important painters he took the name of his hometown. There, where his birthplace was probably situated, on the marketplace in front of the New Town Hall of Kronach, a memorial reminds the passer-bys of the famous citizen.
In 1556, his cousin Matthias Gunderam noted, that Cranach had been taught the "ars graphica" by his father Hans Maler. This term might imply an apprenticeship as printmaker in woodcut.
One of the rare clues referring to Cranach's family can be found in a forensic record in the municipal archive of Kronach. There, the records show a strange neighborhood fight from 1495 to 1498 involving Lucas and his sister. In the end, his father, Hans Maler, as well as his neighbor were penalised.
Sometime around 1500, Lucas Cranach left his hometown and travelled to Vienna. In a short time, he got access to the humanists around Conrad Celtis, like the portraits of the married couple Cuspinian as well as the ones of a judge and his wife, show. Celtis was well acquainted with the emperor and the prince bishop Fredrick II of Saxony, who was, at that time, the highest ranking German lestat.
In 1505, Frederick III, alias Frederick the Wise, made Cranach his court painter in Wittenberg. On Epiphany, three years later, he honored Cranach with the symbol of the winged snake, which he from now on used as his signature on all his workshop's artworks. Due to his workshop, the artist soon became one of the richest and most reputable citizens of Wittenberg. He was a good friend to Martin Luther and even today our image of the great reformer is shaped by the portraits painted by Cranach. In addition, he worked for the counter reformation. For example, Cardinal Albrecht von Brandenburg let him furnish the collegiate church of Halle with altarpieces by his workshop.
All in all, Cranach worked for three lestats of Saxony in Wittenberg. After the death of Frederick III, his elder brother became elector and was followed by his son John Frederick I, called John the Magnanimous, after his death in 1532. In 1547, the protestant lestats lost the Schmalkaldic War. In consequence, the elector was taken prisoner by emperor Charles V. In 1550, Cranach followed his master and came, thus, to Augsburg. Here, he painted the picture "The Samaritan Woman at the Well", which is exhibited in the Franconian Gallery.
When John Frederick was released in 1552, Cranach followed him to Weimar, the elector's new residency. In Weimar, Cranach died on the 16th of October in the house of his daughter Anna and his son-in-law Christian Brück. He was buried in the Jacob's Graveyard. On his tombstone it reads: "The fastest painter and alderman of Wittenberg, who was known by his virtue very precious to three Saxon Electors."
By the way: In the Jacob's Church Cranach's descendant, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, married Christiane Vulpios.