Ernst Friedrich August Rietschel

Dates1804 - 1861
BornPulsnitz, Germany
DiedDresden, Germany

Born into a lower middle-class family, Ernst Friedrich August Rietschel became one of the most important sculptors in Germany in the 1800s. He is primarily appreciated for the monumental sculptures that adorn the pediments of many of the most important nineteenth-century buildings in Germany.

Rietschel studied at the Dresden Art Academy, where he would eventually also teach. In 1826 he moved to Berlin and studied with sculptor Christian Daniel Rauch, initiating a lifelong friendship and artistic collaboration. After studying antique sculpture in Italy on a scholarship, Rietschel returned to Germany. From the early 1830s on, he received a steady stream of commissions for monumental architectural sculptures. His figures peopled the pediments and gables of such esteemed buildings as the Munich Glyptothek, the main building and main hall of the old University of Leipzig, the Dresden Court Theater, and the Berlin Opera. He was also commissioned to sculpt many free-standing monuments dedicated to famous Germans. On these commissions, his preference for dressing his characters in contemporary garb created a public uproar but led to an appreciation of the realistic quality of his work.