Ernst Rietschel back to home The sculptor
15.12.1804 21.02.1861
Rietschel-Year 2004   ·   Under the auspiece of Federal President

» Biography of Ernst Rietschel «

As third child of the leather purse and glove maker Friedrich Ehregott Rietschel (1768-1828) and his wife Caroline (1770-1834), Ernst Friedrich August Rietschel is born on December 15 in Pulsnitz (Saxony) where the family lives in extremely straitened circumstances.

First painting and drawing lessons at the Pulsnitz drawing teacher Gottlieb Leberecht Kühler. In the following years Rietschel contributes to the family’s maintenance by the artistic decoration of targets, grave crosses, tableclothes, family registers etc..

Start of apprenticeship at the Pulsnitz merchant Christian Gotthold Brückner; abandon of the training after a few weeks and return to the parents‘ home.

On May 5, entrance into the Royal Saxonian Academy of Arts at Dresden (scholarship); start of studies at Johann Gotthold Seyfert, Friedrich Mattäi, Ferdinand Hartmann, Jacob Seydelmann, Traugott Leberecht Pochman and Johann David Schubert. Beginning of the lifelong friendship with Julius Cäsar Thaeter.

In spring, move to the second class (plaster hall). In August, Rietschel participates in the exhibition of the Dresden Academy for the first time with four copies for which a prize of 25 taler is granted to him.

In spring, move to the nude hall. Again Rietschel is granted a money prize (30 taler) for his drawings presented in the annual Academy exhibition. As regular freeboard guest, he frequents the home of the Dresden glove manufacturer Car Friedrich Bassenge; there he becomes acquainted with Bassenge’s grandson Otto Siegmund Runge.

Rietschel participates in the exhibition of the Dresden Academy with several drawings and round plastic works and is again awarded a money prize (20 taler). The Saxonian minister Detlev Graf (Earl) von Einsiedel offers him to learn the art of sculpture at the minister’s expense and then working as pattern-maker for his ironworks in Lauchhammer. Rietschel accepts this proposal and starts his three-year-long basic training at the Royal sculptor Franz Pettrich. Intensive friendships with the artists Friedrich Preller, Heinrich Wilhelm Georg, Carl Julius Milde, Christian Kallmeyer and Anton Wilhelm Schilde.

Participation of Rietschel in the exhibition of the Dresden Academy with drawings and plastic works and award of a prize of 20 talers to him.

In April and May, walking tours to the cloister Marienstern, to Prietitz and through the Saxonian Switzerland. In October travel to Zittau and visit to the cloister Oybin. Rietschels first independently modelled sculpture, a discus thrower, is presented on the Academy exhibition.

It is under great difficulties that Rietschel finishes the Neptun figure of a fountain made for Nordhausen. At the beginning of November, he moves to Berlin where Christian Daniel Rauch accepts him as student.

In Rauch’s workshop, Rietschel models the reliefs of the apostles Peter and Paul as his first independent work. On his teacher’s recommendation he receives the commission for a draft for the monument to the Saxonian king Frederick Augustus I in Dresden. He delivers a first draft in October.

In April, Rietschel travels to Nuremberg in order to take part in the cornerstone ceremony for the Dürer statue. On his way back, he visits Goethe in Weimar. In spring he participates in a competition of the Berlin Academy of Arts and wins as the major prize the silver medal with a nude drawing. With the relief "Penelope leaves Ikarios in order to follow Odysseus" he emerges as the winner from the annual competition of the Prussian travel scholarship. Since he cannot accept this prize as a stranger, he receives the travel money from the Saxonian government on recommendation of the Berlin Academy’s senate. The Earl of Einsiedel relieves Rietschel of his duties to work as a pattern-maker for Lauchhammer. Rietschel perfects the bust of his late friend Ferdinand Wiebel; he pulls down the still uncompleted clay model of a "David". His father Friedrich Ehregott Rietschl dies on December 21.

In June, start of a travel with Rauch to Munich; during a stop-over in Weimar visit of Goethe (July 1). In Munich, Rietschel assists his teacher in the work for the monument of Maximilian I Joseph and models the figure of the vase painter for the tympanum of the Munich sculpture gallery. He becomes acquainted with Bertel Thorvaldsen, Ludwig Schwanthaler, Ludwig Schaller, Moritz von Schwind, Leopold Schulz and Wilhelm von Kaulbach. At the end of October, Rauch travels to Italy; during his six-month absence, Rietschel assumes the direction of the works for the Munich king-monument. In the exhibition of the Dresden Academy, his drawing "Reunion of Jacob and Joseph" can be seen.

On August 5, departure from Munich to Italy. Via Partenkirchen, Innsbruck, Heiligenblut, Treviso, Venice, Verona, Mantua, Bologna, Florence and Perugia, Rietschel reaches Rome at the end of September. Meeting his Berlin friends Eduard Bendemann, Julius Hübner, Wilhelm Schadow, Karl Ferdinand Sohn and Theodor Hildebrandt he stays only two weeks there for the time being. From the middle of October, stay in Naples, Capri, Pompeji and Paestum; at the middle of November, return to Rome.

The political revolts flaming up all over Italy induce Rietschel to a premature departure to Germany on February. Immediately after his arrival in Munich he receives the commission to work on a marble bust of Luther for the Walhalla. At Whitsun, engagement with Albertine Trautscholdt, a daughter of Johann Friedrich Trautscholdt, the manager of the ironworks in Lauchhammer. On the Dresden Academy exhibition his drawing "Christ’s march in Jerusalem" can be seen. He models the bust of his friend Eduard d’Alton. At the end of November, he receives the definite commission for the Dresden Frederick-Augustus monument.

Completion of the Luther bust for the Walhalla and of the life-size auxiliary model for the Dresden monument King Frederick Augustus I. In October conferment of a professorship for the art of sculpture at the Dresden Academy of Arts. In the same month marriage with Albertine Trautscholdt and move to Dresden.

In summer Rietschel receives the official commission for the tympanum and the portal decoration of the great hall in Leipzig. Rietschel takes up his studio at the Brühlsche Terrasse (in the former garden hall). Birth of the daughter Adelheid on September 20. Besides the big works for the Dresden Monument of Künig Frederick Augustus I and the Leipzig relief cycle in the university’s great hall, Rietschel creates plastic portraits of Carl Otto von Lüwenstern, Carl August Boettiger, Miss Mattäis, a baptismal font for the Jakobi Church in Oelsnitz (Vogtland) and the relief portraits of Frederick the Wise and George the Bearded. The model of the "mildness" for the Frederick Augustus Monument can be seen on the exhibition of the Dresden Academy.

In Dresden Rietschel meets David d’Angers who paints a portrait of him (portrait medaillon). Among others he presents the models of the "Polyhymnia" for the portal of the Leipzig great hall and of the "Piet" for the Frederick Augustus Monument on the exhibition of the Dresden Academy and models the portraits of Joseph Thürmer for the building of the Dresden Academy and of Bertha Baers. In December he receives the offer of Ludwig I. to hold a chair at the Munich Academy (it is even before Rietschel’s decision that the king changes his plans and appoints the Munich-born Ludwig Schwanthaler).

On July 11, only a few weeks after the birth of the second daughter, Albertine Rietschel dies. The sculptor shows the model of the "Wisdom" for the Frederick Augustus Monument on the exhibition of the Dresden Academy. In October journey to Munich on the occasion of the unveiling of the monument for Maximilian I. Joseph. In November death of the daughter Johanna. At the end of the year, draft of the Ephemeres, a column of honour meant for the Dresden Neumarkt (new market) on the occasion of the 80th birthday of King Anton of Saxony.

In January, appointment as regular member of the Berlin Academy of Arts, in March as an honourary member at the Vienna Academy of Arts. In July Rietschel perfects the tympanum and portal decoration of the Leipzig great hall building, in October he gets the commission for its plastic interior decoration. For this purpose, he presents drafts of drawings for twelve mural reliefs as well as plastic models of the busts of King Anton and of the Princes August, Maximilian and Johann of Saxony. Furthermore he creates the portraits of his late wife Albertine and his future father-in-law Carl Gustav Carus. On November 2, marriage with Charlotte Carus.

At the exhibition of the Dresden Academy Rietschel shows two reliefs for the Leipzig great hall building, the life-size figure of a water scooping nymph for Johann Gottlob von Quandt, meant for the Park of Dittersbach and the drawing "Charon". For Ludwig Earl of Stieglitz (St. Petersburg) he works a semi life-size marble statue of a ceres, for the family Hedenus a tombstone and for the Masonic lodge building in the Dresden Ostra-Allee sphinges and caryatids. On August 28, birth of the son Wolfgang.

Charlotte Rietschel dies on May 12. The sculptor models her portrait bust and shows four reliefs as works for the Leipzig great hall building and the marble busts of King Anton on the exhibition of the Dresden Academy. Construction of his own house where the friendly families Julius Hübner and Eduard Bendemann move in, too. As programmatic frontal ornament Rietschel models the busts of Ghiberti, Michelangelo, Vischer, Casanova, Thorvaldsen and Rauch. In the stable yard of Klein-Glienicke, Berlin, a second casting of the Nordhausen Neptun is placed.

In August, Rietschel gets the commission for significant parts of the architectural sculpture at the first Dresden Court Theatre by Gottfried Semper – two pediments of Gluck, Mozart, Goethe and Schiller; spandrel reliefs at the main entrance. He perfects the portrait of Wilhelmine Schrüder-Devrient and presents the marble busts of Frederick August II and of the prince Johann of Saxony for the Leipzig great hall as well as the marble statuette of the Petersburg Ceres.

Modelling of his father-in-law’s bust, Johann Friedrich Trautscholdt

On May 2, marriage with Marie Hand. Meeting with Thorvaldsen in Maxen (near Pirna) in June of that year. In July the sculptor receives the commission for the statue of Abrecht Thaer in Leipzig. At the exhibition of the Dresden-Academy he shows the sitting statues of Goethe and Schiller for the Dresden Court Theatre. He produces the bust of a Mr von Sternberg and the tombstone of the margrave Diezmann for the Leipzig Pauliner Church and delivers three portraits for the Dresden Masonic lodge in the Ostra-Allee.

On May 10, birth of his son Georg. As small works Rietschel produces bust and portrait medaillons of Lida Bendemann, of a Mr von Thümen, a Mrs Alex, of Earl John of Saxony as well as of the elector Augustus I of Saxony.
The two tympanons are erected at their place at the Dresden Court Theatre.

On June 7, unveiling of the Frederick-Augustus monument in Dresden. In that very month Rietschel starts for a journey to Belgium, Holland and France and visits David d’Angers in Paris. In October, he receives the commission for the tympanum of the Berlin Opera. He produces a part of the composition "Reunion of Jacob and Joseph", drawn as early as in 1829 as a relief and models decorative sculptures (for the pharmacist Ficinus), the bust of Friedrich Struve and the model of a Caritas-group.

In May, Rietschel is asked to participate in the competition about the Olbers monument in Bremen; in September its semi-life-size modell is finished. In November perfection of the Berlin tympanum. There are first patterns for the Dresden statue of Carl Maria von Weber, Christ-Angel relief, portrait medaillons of his wife Marie and his son Georg as well as the busts of Gottfried Herrmann and Pauline Hübner.

The portrait medaillons of the friends Ferdinand Hiller, Moritz von Schwind and Eduard Trautscholdt as well as the bust of Heinrich Cotta are completed. On October 8, birth of the daughter Margarethe. In December, Rietschel gets the commission of a private person for a Piet larger than life-size.

In January, a first plastic pattern for the Dresden monument to Carl Maria von Weber. In June, the cast model for the Thaer statue is completed. Furthermore, Rietschel produces a Psyche relief as well as portrait busts and portrait medaillons of Robert and Clara Schumann, Carl Gustav Carus, Rosa Oppenheim, Clemens W. Coudray, Bernhard Crusen, Dr. G.E. Schumann, Dr. Meinert, Mr von Sydow.
Death of the daughter Margarethe.

On April 19, birth of the son Hermann; in the same month commission for the Brunswick monument to Lessing. On July 18, Marie Rietschel dies. Departure for a journey to the Rhine and the South of Germany. Modelling of the portrait of the Princess Anne of Saxony, of the memorial medal to Carl Gustav Carus as well as the round-relief portraits of Berthold Auerbach, Heinrich Brockhaus, Heinrich Wilhelm Crusius and J.W. Zerboni de Sposetti. On November 6, Rietschel goes to Leipzig together with Hübner and Bendemann in order to draw Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy on his deathbed. He receives the commission for a portrait bust of the deceased. At the end of the year, perfection of the Piet model.

At the end of January, Rietschel models the bust of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (between 1848 and 1850 three repetitions in marble), in April the portrait bust of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Furthermore, he produces the portraits of the friends Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, of his sister-in-law Johanna Eugenia Carus, of his parents Friedrich Ehregott and Caroline Salome Rietschel (for their tombstone on the Pulsnitz cemetery), of Maciej von Wodzinski (for his tombstone on the Dresden Catholic cemetery), of the Consul Thode, of Queen Mary of Saxony (round-relief), of Mr von Seidlitz and H.G. Ruschpler (round relief). On the exhibition of the Dresden Academy he presents the plaster model of the Piet.

In July, Rietschel finishes the cast model for the Lessing statue. Modelling of a antique conceived Goethe statuette and of the portraits of Wilhelm Gesenius (bust), of Josefa Puchalskas (for her tombstone on the Dresden Catholic cemetery), of Mrs von Wuthenau, of Dr. Küchly’s children, of Mr von Zehmen and of Miss von Erdmannsdorf (round relief).

Rietschel produces portraits of the Countess Josephine von Olizar and of Karl Gutzkow (round reliefs), of Abraham G. Werner as well as of the Prince of Glücksburg, an almost life-size crucifix with mourning Mary of Magdala as well as decorative reliefs "Four times of the day" and "Amor on bolting panther" which he presents on the exhibition of the Dresden Academy. On September 28, the Thaer monument is unveiled in Leipzig, in October, the sculptor receives the commission by the King of Prussia for the marble work of the Piet. He participates in the exhibition of the Berlin Academy and is awarded the great golden prize medal. He is bestowed with the honorary membership of the Munich Academy and appointed as corresponding member of the Paris Academy in the middle of December.

In February, Rietschel (and simultaneously Ernst Julius Hähnel) receives the commission for the architectural sculpture of the Dresden Art Gallery (Gemäldegalerie). In March he gets the offer of a professorship at the Vienna Academy of Arts; he refuses to it. On April 30, he marries Friederike Oppermann. He models her portrait relief as well as the portraits of a Mr Eckart, a Professor Reil, a Mrs von Ritzenberg and of a boy named Egidy (round relief). In June, official commission for the monument to Carl Maria von Weber. With the Piet, the Christ-Angel-Relief as well as with the “Amor on bolting panther” Rietschel participates in the London’s Great Exhibition and gains a prize medal for his works. In September, departure for Sicily in order to cure his pulmonary disease.

At the end of June, return from Italy. In July, commission for the double statue of Goethe and Schiller in Weimar. Intensive work for the architectural sculpture of the Dresden Art Gallery; modelling of the relief "Amor reining a panther" as well as the portrait medaillons of Eduard Devrient and Franz Liszt (marble version in 1854).

Perfection of a plastic self-portrait (round relief) and completion of the architectural sculpture for the Dresden Art Gallery at the end of the year. On July 4, birth of the daughter Gertrud. Unveiling of the Brunswick Lessing-monument on September 29.

Portrait reliefs of James Whittles and Frederick Augustus II of Saxony (round reliefs). Bust of Marie von Sayn-Wittgenstein (1855 marble version). At the end of October, perfection of the marble version of the Piet (erected in the Potsdam Friedenskirche). Move of the studio to the exhibition building at the Brühlsche Terrasse.

In summer Rietschel participates in the Paris Art Exhibition with the Lessing-statue, the Piet and the decorative reliefs; he gains the Great Medal of Honor and is appointed Knight of the French Legion of Honor. He models the portraits of Emil Devrient and Bernhard von Lindenau (round reliefs) as well as a pattern for the Gellert-monument in Hainichen (for financial reasons the latter has been worked out as late as after Rietschel’s death by his pupil Wilhelm Schwenk and unveiled in 1865). In June, commission for the Quadriga on the Brunswick Residence Palace.

In April, Rietschel completes the plastic pattern for the Brunswick Quadriga, at the end of the year, cast model for the Goethe and Schiller-monument. Furthermore, he produces the portrait relief of Ludwig Gruner. Appointment as Honorary Member of the Stockholm Academy.

In January, Rietschel visits Christian Daniel Rauch in Berlin and models his portrait bust (worked out in marble three times in 1857/59). Portrait of Dr. Wolf. On September 4, unveiling of the Goethe-Schiller-monument in Weimar.

On January 26, Rietschel gets the commission for the Reformation-monument in Worms. He completes the statuette of a child with a bunch of grapes, the model for the statue of Carl Maria von Weber, the bust of Ida von Lüttichau as well as the models for the horses of the Brunswick Quadriga. In May, he is appointed as Knight of the Prussian Order Pour le Mérite for Science and Art; appointments as Member of Honor of the Academie of Brussels and Kopenhague, as well as Member of the Institut de France and of the Roman Accademia di San Luca follow.

In May, completion of the two plastic alternative patterns for the Reformation-monument in Worms. In August, the sculptor receives the offer to take over the direction of the Berlin Academy of Arts; he refuses for health reasons. In the course of summer, completion of the model for the stamp of the Deutsche Kunstgenossenschaft (art society), as well as portraits of Eduard Bendemann and Bogumil Dawison (round reliefs), Johann Gottlob von Quandt (relief medaillon for the Dresden Academy building), Professor Granowsky (bust), Mr Schletter and the music director Mosevius.

At the end of March, completion of the works for the model of Brunonia for the Brunswick Quadriga. Move of workshop to Ammonstraße no. 4 in Dresden. Perfection of the portrait bust of Carl Gustav Carus, as well as of the cast models for the statues of Luther and John Wycliff at the Worms Reformation-monument. On October 11, unveiling of the Dresden statue of Carl Maria von Weber. Rietschel is appointed Member of Honor of the Antwerpen Academy. His physical condition worsens rapidly, although he starts working on the bust of Professor Wichmann (it remains unfinished).

On February 21, Ernst Rietschel dies of his pulmonary disease he had suffered of for many years; on February 24, he is buried on the Dresden Trinitatis cemetery (at the Western wall). Appeal on the foundation of a Rietschel museum by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, Hermann Hettner, Carl Gustav Carus, Ernst Julius Hähnel and others.

In August, inauguration of the Rietschel Museum in the Palais of the Großer Garten, Dresden.

On February 21, unveiling of the monument to Ernst Rietschel designed by Johannes Schilling at the place of Rietschel’s former study on the Dresden Brühlsche Terrasse which had been pulled down in 1872.

On September 12, transfer of the inventory of the Rietschel-Museum to the Dresden Sculpture Gallery.

The Ernst-Rietschel-monument designed by Gustav Kietz is erected in front of the town hall in Pulsnitz.

At the occasion of the centenary ceremony of Ernst Rietschel, a large exhibition of his drawings and sculptures is presented in the Dresden Sculpture Gallery.

Installation of a "Ernst-Rietschel-Kapelle" in the Pulsnitz Church of St Nicolai through pastor Johannes Müller (exhibition of drawings and letters as well as of sculptures in plaster casts).

On December 12, ceremonies in Dresden and Pulsnitz on the occasion of the the 150th birthday of Ernst Rietschel.

After the German reunification, foundation of the Ernst-Rietschel culture society in Pulsnitz. The Ernst-Rietschel-Prize for the art of sculpture is donated by the Wittgensteiner Kliniken.

Ernst-Rietschel’s birthplace is reconstructed and entrusted to the Ernst-Rietschel culture society for the purpose of an archivary and exhibition place by thy City of Pulsnitz.

On the occasion of Ernst Rietschel’s 200th birthday, the Ernst-Rietschel culture society organizes a supraregional memorial program under the auspices of the President of the Federal Republic.
Towns which are connected with the work and creative activity of the sculptor (Bautzen, Braunschweig, Dresden, Hainichen, Kamenz, Lauchhammer, Pulsnitz, Weimar, Worms) are participating in this program. Exhibitions take place in Dresden and in Pulsnitz.