Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) is acknowledged as one of the greats of the German Renaissance. His combination of religious piety and fleshly eroticism went on to inspire artists across the globe, including many in Japan. Despite his standing worldwide, however, Cranach's career and legacy have only now become the subject of a large-scale exhibition in this country.

"Lucas Cranach the Elder, 500 Years of the Power of Temptation" at The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, brings together around 90 works — just over half are by Cranach himself, the others by members of his workshop, his son (Lucas Cranach the Younger) and his contemporaries, or by later artists who also fell under his spell.

Born in Kronach in Bavaria (then part of the Holy Roman Empire), Cranach's name was derived from that of his hometown. In 1504, he took employment in Wittenberg, south of Berlin, at the court of the Saxon elector, Frederick the Wise, one of the most important rulers of the empire. There, he painted many religious pieces and works with mythological themes.