The New International Encyclopædia/Rietschel, Ernst

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RIETSCHEL, rēch'el, Ernst (1804-01). An eminent German sculptor, founder of the Dresden school of plastic art. Born at Pulsnitz. Saxon Lusatia, December 15, 1804, he underwent the severest privations in his youth, and began his artistic training at the Dresden Academy, in 1820, still contending with extreme poverty, until he won prizes for his drawings, which were, moreover, bought for the academy as models to be copied. In 1826 he became the pupil of Rauch, in Berlin, and in 1827 was granted a stipend by the Saxon Government, of which, however, he did not avail himself for the purpose of visiting Italy until 1830, after having assisted his master in the completion of various works, notably of the monument to King Max I. at Munich, in 1829. From Italy he returned to Berlin in 1831, and in 1832 was appointed professor at the academy in Dresden, where he resided until his death, February 21, 1861.

Rietschel's first work of importance was the “Monument of King Frederick Augustus I.” (1829-39), in the Zwinger at Dresden, but simultaneously he worked on the twelve great reliefs, illustrative of the “Main Epochs of Civilization” (1835-38), in the Aula of Leipzig University. Next came the admirable group in high relief, in the pediment of the Opera House in Berlin (1844), with the “Muse of Music” in the centre, and from about the same time dates “The Christ Angel,” a beautiful relief, widely known through reproductions, and presented by the master to the Art Union of Dresden. The first work to give evidence of Rietschel's accomplished mastership, and to demonstrate his peculiar tendency in art, was the famous “Pietà” (c.l847), constituting the finest ornament of the Friedenskirche at Potsdam. Among his best creations are to be numbered the statues of “Thaer,” the agriculturist (1850), at Leipzig, and of “Lessing” (1853), at Brunswick, a truly classical example of realistic portrait sculpture. In 1852 he began the “Emblematic Sculptures” on the exterior of the Dresden Museum, the cornice of which he also adorned with statues of “Pericles,” “Phidias,” “Giotto,” “Dürer,” “Holbein,” and “Goethe.” In the meanwhile he also modeled the heroic-size “Goethe-Schiller Monument” (erected 1857) for Weimar, and in 1857 fashioned his celebrated bust of “Rauch,” unsurpassed probably by any portrait bust of the century. This was followed by the “Quadriga” (1860), with the magnificent figure of “Brunonia,” for the ducal palace at Brunswick, executed in copper by Howaldt. In the same year was unveiled the masterly statue of “Weber” at Dresden. For the Walhalla, Regensburg, he executed the busts of “Luther,” “Elector Augustus II.,” besides other busts and relief portraits. Of his last and most elaborate production, the “Luther Monument” at Worms, he was only able to finish the figures of Luther and Wiclif, while the completion of his design was intrusted to his pupils Donndorf and Kietz (1868). A collection of casts and models of all his works is preserved in the Rietschel Museum at Dresden. Consult his Autobiography, edited and supplemented by Oppermann (Leipzig, 1873); Pecht, Deutsche Künstler, i. (Nördlingen, 1877); and Briefwechsel zwischen Rauch und Rietschel (Berlin, 1890-91).