Station: [7] The Cranachs’ Business Ventures II

Medicine bottles and pillboxes – Lucas Cranach's business empire also included a chemist’s shop. In 1517, he sold the houses overlooking the market and acquired the property at Schloss-Strasse number 1 – along with a pharmacy. 

In 1520, the elector granted Cranach a pharmacy charter – in other words, a licence to trade as an apothecary. A chemist’s shop perfectly complemented his artistic activities. That’s because in the 16th century, chemists traded in both paints and paper. So he was able to obtain the basic materials for his painting workshop without going through middlemen. But he was also ensuring that basic medical care was available in Wittenberg. His pharmacy was the only one in town. Cranach appointed a knowledgeable employee to manage it. In the 1540s, it was run by Caspar Pfreundt, who later married Cranach's daughter Anna. The pharmacy remained in the family for generations until 1694.

The pharmacy also served sweet wine – which brings us to another of Cranach's mainstays – the sale of wine. The town treasury’s account books show that Cranach had been making money by serving wine for a long time – since 1512. One of the two properties overlooking the market must have been licensed to serve wine. 

So Cranach the Elder was a very active and influential individual. It was only a matter of time before he went into politics. In fact, he first became a member of Wittenberg council in 1519, and later served several terms of office as mayor. Cranach probably retired from the council in 1544. His son Lucas followed him into politics from 1549 and was mayor of Wittenberg in the term of office covering 1565 and ‘66. 

If you head upstairs to the first floor and enter the room facing the stairs, you can find out more about Cranach as a court painter.


All depictions: © Dagmar Trüpschuch und Cranach Stiftung