Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich (1712-1774),40 the foremost master of 18th-century eclecticism, came from Thuringia. After having been trained in Dresden, he quickly came into the service of Saxony, first in 1741 as court painter, then 1748 as general curator for paintings and in 1764 as professor at the Academy.41 In 1734 he travelled to Holland, 1743-1744 to Italy and worked in between for a year in Braunschweig. He seldom painted direct copies after the old masters (although such copies do exist) [i][i][i][i],42 but he knew how to make pleasing paintings in the taste of the 17th-century Dutch masters.

attributed to Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich   afterRembrandt  
Bust of an old man in phantasy costume (1732 - 1743)
oil paint / panel (oak), 43,2 x 32,4 cm
Private collection

Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich  
Portrait of an old man (1727 - 1774)
oil paint / panel, 29 x 23 cm
The Latvian Museum of Foreign Art, Riga (Letland), no. GL-186

Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich  
The adoration of the shepherds dated 1738
oil paint / canvas, 45 x 64 cm
Dietricy 1738
Alte Pinakothek, Munich, no. 5538

The adoration of the shephards c. 1654
etching / paper, 105 x 129 mm
bottom left of the middle :  Rembrandt. F
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, no. RP-P-1962-21

A man in exotic costume dated 1635
oil paint / panel, 72,6 x 62,1 cm
The Royal Collection, Great Britain, no. RCIN 405519

It is said, that his paintings in the manner of Bartholomeus Breenbergh, Cornelis van Poelenburch [i], Nicolaes Berchem [i] and Jan Both belong to the earliest ‘creations’ in this field, later followed by pieces à la Philips Wouwerman [i].43 The painters from the peasant genre onto the fine painters, Adriaen van Ostade till Willem van Mieris II, are not forgotten.

Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich  
Venus hands over to Aeneas the armour forged by Vulcan dated 1766
oil paint / canvas, 75,5 x 63 cm
lower left :  D. 1766
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Dresden, no. 2127

Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich  
Bating nymphs before the Grotto of Egeria dated 1745
oil paint / canvas, 54 x 72,9 cm
lower right :  CWE Dietricy Pinx 1745
Staatliches Museum Schwerin, Schwerin, no. G 277

Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich  
Returning from the hay harvest dated 1731
oil paint / canvas, 46 x 60 cm
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg (Russia), no. ГЭ-8673

His best-known paintings are those in the taste of Rembrandt [i], like the representation of The Raising of Lazarus [i].44 To the many paintings in Dresden also belong the Adoration of the Magi of 1731 [i] and the Presentation in the Temple of 1740 (partly after Gerbrand van den Eeckhout) [i][i]. Furthermore there are two pieces in Braunschweig of 1737 [i], that hold reminiscences of Gerbrand van den Eeckhout and Jan Victors (he studied the Old Masters in Salzdahlum!) and another Presentation in the Temple [i],45 engraved in 1759 by Georg Friedrich Schmidt (1712-1775) [i], with borrowings from Rembrandt’s Hundred Guilders print [i]), and many others works.

Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich  
The adoration of the Magi dated 1731
oil paint / canvas, 87,5 x 114 cm
lower right :  CWE Dietrich fec: 1731
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden - Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, no. 2103

Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich  
The presentation of the Christ-child in the temple dated 1740
oil paint / panel, 50 x 84,5 cm
lower right :  Dietricy Ao 1740.
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden - Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, no. 2109

Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich  
Sarai [Sara] brings Hagar to Abram [Abraham] (Genesis 16:3-4) dated 1737
oil paint / canvas, 99,5 x 125,5 cm
lower left :  Peint par. Dietricy 1737
Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig, no. GG 619

Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich  
The presentation of the Christ-child in the temple dated 1739
oil paint / canvas, 82 x 103,5 cm
lower left :  CW Dietricÿ fec / 1739
New York City (Sotheby's), 2000-10-18, no. 120

Georg Friedrich Schmidt   after Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich  
The presentation of the Christ-child in the temple dated 1769
copper engraving / paper, 235 x 277 mm
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Dresden, no. A 24085

Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich  
Portrait of an unknown man in a fur headdress and robe dated 1743
oil paint / panel, 37,7 x 28,2 cm
left center :  Dietricij Pinx / 1743
Amsterdam (Christie's), 2007-05-09, no. 59

Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich  
The raising of Lazarus dated 1751
oil paint / canvas, 85 x 105 cm
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Dresden, no. 3183

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout  
The presentation of the Christ-child in the temple c. 1665
oil paint / canvas, 67,5 x 84 cm
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden - Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, no. 1618

Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich  
The presentation of the Christ-child in the temple dated 1738
oil paint / panel (oak), 38,5 x 55,5 cm
lower left :  Dietricy Pinxit A° 1738
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden - Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, no. 2105

Christ healing the sick (The Hundred Guilder Print) c. 1648
etching / paper, 278 x 388 mm
Rijksprentenkabinet, Amsterdam

In his time such old master-like paintings were very much praised. People admired his versatility: ‘He can imitate almost every painter; he imitates Rembrandt so strongly that no one will believe otherwise than that it truly is Rembrandt, and the same goes for the Italian Roos [Salvator Rosa]. The spiritual matters that he paints are in the Italian taste, and as delicate in its proportions as [Adriaen van der] Werff’ (in translation).46 Meusel remarks quite rightly: ‘In youthful, especially feminine figures, his drawing is more true and nobler, his brush softer and his flesh tones more pleasing, than those of Rembrandt’. Dietrich also paints companion pieces for real Rembrandts, of which Leber cites a characteristic example from a Frankfurt auction catalogue.47 One could say, that Dietrich associated intimately with Rembrandt. The irrationality, the power of Rembrandt’s expression, the monumentality of his work, remained a closed book to him, as he turned everything into intimate loveliness. Rembrandt [i] and Adriaen van Ostade supplied him in equal measures with materials to depict his themes in a realistic and fanciful way (fig. 86) [i][i][i].48

Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich  
Abraham's sacrifice dated 1730
etching / paper, 189 x 145 mm
upper left :  C.W.E. Dietrich / 1730
art dealer  Nicolaas Teeuwisse, Berlin-Grunewald

Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich  
The adoration of the shepherds 1756
etching / paper, 144 x 173 mm
Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig, no. CWEDietrich V 3.1807

Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich  
Wandering Musicians dated 1745
oil paint / panel (oak), 43,7 x 33 cm
lower right :  Dietricy fecit 1745
National Gallery (London), London, no. 205

Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich  
Traveling musicians c. 1745 or later
pen in brown ink / paper, 246 x 193 mm
lower right :  CWE Dietricÿ Inventor a la Custo de Ostade
Paris (Ader Nordmann), 2018-03-23, no. 41

That he sometimes also ‘exploited’ Italian originals and that he painted landscapes à la Watteau we only mention here for the sake of completeness. At the same time one has to admit that although his technique is Dutch trained, it is personal and doesn’t lack a certain appeal, an assertion which cannot be made about the slick Dou imitations of other artists. Dietrich can only be understood in the context of the artistic life in Dresden. As a collector his prince August III moved in all styles and this historic-esthetic approach found an echo in the painter/museum director, which made him into a peculiarly ambiguous figure. That he was more attracted by the Dutch masters than by other art, may have its origin in the realistic-bourgeois basic attitude.

Dietrich – it is hardly fathomable nowadays – enjoyed international renown. Especially the French collectors of those days, who after all had an open eye for the beauty of Dutch art and also an open purse, purchased his old fashioned paintings, drawings and etchings. Johann Georg Wille (1715-1808) related in his reminiscences of him since 1759 almost on every page, that he either sold or exchanged Dietrich’s paintings in Paris or that he had them on loan to be engraved. Another time he had to translate a letter by Pierre Jean Mariette (1694-1774) to Wille [= Dietrich, ed.] in German, in which a splendid Rembrandt is mentioned, that Mariette sent to Dietrich with the request to receive Dietrich’s graphics in exchange.49 Dietrich worked on commission for Parisian collectors and for Wille, who allowed himself to assign the required themes. In Paris there seems to have been a market especially for his landscapes à la Both and Berchem and for his genre pieces ‘in the taste of Ostade’. In French auction catalogues of the late 18th century Dietrich, often classified as ‘École des Pays Bas’ [‘Dutch School’], is a regular customer.

In Germany Carl Friedrich Holtzmann (1740-1811) worked after models by Dietrich, at least as an engraver [i]. The little that we have seen from his alleged 2000 images, doesn't allow us to suppose a Dutch training in the manner of Dietrich.50 As theorists Anton Raphaël Mengs (1728-1779) and the classicist Adam Friedrich Oeser (1717-1799) were still under the spell of the Rembrandt veneration [i][i][i],51 although there are no traces to be found in their paintings of a liveliness and a chiaroscuro in the manner of Rembrandt.52

Adam Friedrich Oeser   after Abraham van Dijck  
The angel leaves the house of the old Tobias (Tobias 12:21-22) (1735 - 1799)
brush in blue / paper, 194 x 291 mm
lower right :  (Rembrandt ? ) ...... Oeser
Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig, Leipzig, no. Kupferstichkabinett NI 542

Adam Friedrich Oeser   after attributed toRembrandt  
The presentation in the temple, Simeon, holding the Christ-child, sings his canticle: 'Nunc dimittis' (1737 - 1799)
etching / paper, 269 x 293 mm
RKD – Nederlands Institute for Art History (Collection Old Netherlandish Art), The Hague, no. BD/0676 - ONS/Original Prints (by inventor)

Carl Friedrich Holtzmann   after Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich  
Aphrodite as shepherdess c. 1790
engraving / paper, 217 x 173 mm
upper left :  Dietrich pinxit / Holtzmann fecit
Galerie Himmel, Dresden

Adam Friedrich Oeser   after Gerbrand van den Eeckhout  
The Circumcision (Luke 2: 21) dated 1756
etching / paper, 120 x 141 mm
RKD – Nederlands Institute for Art History (Collection Old Netherlandish Art), The Hague, no. BD/0676 - ONS/Original Prints (by inventor)

Benjamin Calau (1724-1785) and Ernst Gottlob (1744-1792), who are working in Leipzig, make use of the old masters in a different way. Calau painted portraits in the smooth Rembrandt manner of Gerard Dou and Balthasar Denner [i][i],53 and Gottlob contented himself with copies after Jan Steen, Johann Georg Trautmann [i][i][i] and the so-called Rembrandt drawings of the Winkler collection [i].54

Ernst Gottlob   after Johann Georg Trautmann  
A smoking peasent dated 1775
etching / paper, 181 x 148 mm
lower right :  EG fec. 1775.
Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig, no. EGottlob AB 3.7

Ernst Gottlob   after Ferdinand Bol  
The prophet of Bethel meets the man of God from Judah (1 Kings 13:14-18) before 1772
etching / paper, 286 x 344 mm
Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg, Schloss Ehrenburg (Coburg), no. IV,428,1

Ernst Gottlob   after Johann Georg Trautmann  
A young beggar entertaining a peasant couple dated 1771
etching / paper, 126 x 97 mm
Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig, no. EGottlob AB 3.4

Benjamin Calau  
Study portrait of an older man (1739 - 1776)
wax / canvas, 57 x 46 cm
lower right :  B. Calau / pinxit / cera.
Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig, no. 710

Benjamin Calau  
Study portrait of an older woman reading (1739 - 1776)
wax / canvas, 57 x 46 cm
lower left :  B. / p....
Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig, no. 710

Ernst Gottlob   after Johann Georg Trautmann  
Farmer on horseback and eating man dated 1775
etching / colored paper, 181 x 148 mm
lower right :  EG f 1775
Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig, no. EGottlob AB 3.6


40 [Van Leeuwen 2018] On Dietrich: Michel 1984 and Schniewind Michel 2012.

41 [Van Leeuwen 2018] In the original German text there are some mistakes in the years.

42 [Gerson 1942/1983] Copies after Rembrandt’s Deposition in Dresden, after his Adoration of the Shepherds in London (Landshut) and many more.[Van Leeuwen 2018] We could not find a copy after Rembrandt’s Deposition in Dresden; maybe Gerson referred to one of the 113 works on; Dietrich’s Adoration, at the time in Landshut (RKDimages 289964) is partly after two works by after Rembrandt (or attributed to him at the time). The illustrated paintings are free copies after the painting attributed to Rembrandt in the English Royal Collection. Dietrich probably saw it in Venice, where the Rembrandt was as well at the time. Two Rembrandts and five Rembrandt-like paintings by Dietrich were in the collection of Joseph Smith (c. 1682-1770) in Venice. The paintings ended op up in the Royal Collection after Smith sold his collection to George III in 1762.

43 [Gerson 1942/1983] Hagedorn reports in 1742, that Dietrich painted in the taste of Poelenburch ‘and was more valued than Poelenburch’s works’; he also painted a companion piece for a Poelenburch for him (Stübel 1912, p. 53).

44 [Gerson 1942/1983] Illustrated in Münz 1934.

45 [Gerson 1942/1983] Auction Hildebrand, Berlin, 7 May 1912, no. 102. [Van Leeuwen 2018] Not in this auction, but in auction Berlin (Lepke) 28 November 1911, no. 102.

46 [Gerson 1942/1983] The painter Georg Weismann about Dietrich, 1741 (Schlie 1886, p. 22).

47 [Gerson 1942/1983] Leber 1924, p. 79-86.

48 [Gerson 1942/1983] A drawing of musicians in the Auction Collection Pierre Bezine, Brussels (Verheyden), 14 June 1927, lot 27, with ill., is signed ‘W.E. Dietricy Invento à la custo de Osta’. In etchings often in the manner of Van Ostade, to which the painting in the National Gallery in London is also to be included.

49 [Gerson 1942/1983] Duplessis 1857, index.[Van Leeuwen 2018] Gerson makes a mistake here: the person is Dietrich, not Wille. Wille had to translate a letter from Mariette to Dietrich into German concerning an exchange of a “Rembrandtwerk” (actually a convolute of prints) for works by Dietrich. In fact, Mariette offered Dietrich 59 prints by Rembrandt, doublettes from his own collection in exchange for drawings and prints by Dietrich. Most of the Rembrandt prints were landscapes, including The Three TreesDuplessis 1857, p. 159-161.The letter of Mariette is cited in full in the note. I thank Stefan Bartilla for pointing this out to me.

50 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Holtzmann mainly made portrait miniatures. There also is an etching after Abraham Bloemaert (RKDimages 289944].

51 [Gerson 1942/1983] Münz 1934, p. 41, 44, 125. According to Münz, Oeser also painted pictures in the taste of Rembrandt, that remained unknown to me. In the auction of his estate, there is indeed, next to copies after Italian masters and Nicolas Poussin, mention of 9 drawings after Rembrandt. In Vienna, in the Albertina, there is under no. 1705 a Last Supper ‘related to Jan Zick’. At auction Sotheby’s, London, on 9 February 1930, under lot no. 58: Oeser (after Bol), Girl in a window, brush drawing (to Hannaford, £ 1.1.-). [Van Leeuwen 2018} On Oeser and Rembrandt: Keller 1971/1981, p. 127-135. The auction of Oeser’s estate took place in Leipzig on 3 February 1800 (Lugt 6011). The work in Vienna is RKDimages 290716. Gerson made a mistake in the date of the London auction, which is 19 February 1930 (see also ). We could not retrieve an image. Also Oeser’s son Frieidrich Ludwig Oeser (1751-1792) made prints in the manner of Rembrandt, see i.e. RKDimages 290718).

52 [Van Leeuwen 2018] While in Madrid, Mengs advised King Charles III of Spain to buy a Rembrandt painting (now in the Prado) and sold it to him (RKDimages 46913).

53 [Gerson 1942/1983] Braunschweig, nos. 627 a and b.

54 [Gerson 1942/1983] In the auction in Leipzig of the 1 August 1783, lot 69, his copies after the Five Senses of Jan Steen from the Collection Winkler occur.