Elder son of Lucas Cranach the Elder, the date of Hans’ birth is generally thought to be around 1513. Like his brother, Lucas the Younger, he began to train and work in his father’s workshop in Wittenberg at a very early age. It is thought that from 1527 Hans Cranach was already producing his own works, which are difficult to distinguish from his father’s at this period. A receipt of 1534, in which Hans is stated to be acting on behalf of his father, indicates his level of responsibility in the family enterprise. Around 1537 he made a study trip to Italy, which is documented through his sketchbook, now in the Kesner- Museum in Hanover. It contains drawings of some of the places that he visited and a number of portraits. Hans Cranach died in Bologna on 9 October 1537, and it is not known whether this was his last intended destination or whether his trip would have continued. On his death the humanist and poet Johann Stigel wrote a long poem in praise of his skills as a painter.
Over the past few decades a number of art historians have attempted to establish his oeuvre. Portrait of a bearded Man and Hercules at the Court of Omphale (both Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid) have the monogram “HC” and are his only two signed works. In addition, a number of drawings intended for book illustrations have been attributed to the artist. The exhibition on Cranach held in Stockholm in 1988 added more works to his oeuvre, although his corpus still remains incomplete.