Station: [3] Lucas Cranach

Now it's time for us to find out more about the famous painter himself. 

Lucas, the son of Barbara and Hans Maler, was born in 1472 in the Franconian town of Cranach, present-day Kronach. He had several siblings, although three died in infancy. He probably received his early training as an artist from his father. Unfortunately, there are no records to show which craft his father practised – or whether he was an artist.

After his training, Lucas went on the road as a journeyman. In around 1501, he was in Vienna, and that’s where he first called himself “Lucas from Cranach”. The earliest works we can attribute to him also date from this period. He was already around 30 by this point, but his life and work are only well documented from 1505, when he arrived in Wittenberg.

Nevertheless, some individual documents do give an insight into earlier years. Especially interesting is a book of court proceedings from the town of Cranach, relating to the year 1495. It records a neighbourhood dispute between the Maler family and the Kunz Donat family. According to the records, Kunz Donat’s mother-in-law – called Weltschin, – insulted Lucas, who was 23 at the time. She compared his siblings to rabid dogs and claimed that was why they’d died so young. The Maler family couldn't let that go. The Weltschin was lying, they claimed. She was an old devil's whore. So the families sued each other. 

Bad for them, but good for historical scholarship. It’s how we know for sure that Lucas lived in Cranach.

He died in 1553 in the Thuringian city of Weimar. Three years earlier, he’d followed Elector Johann Friedrich of Saxony as court painter, first to Augsburg and subsequently to Thuringia.


All depictions: © Dagmar Trüpschuch und Cranach Stiftung