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Christian Gottlieb Mietzsch
(1742–1799, Dresden)

The Entombment of Christ. Etching. 33.6 x 36.2 cm. 1772. Heller-Andresen 2; Le Blanc 3 I (of II); Nagler 1.

The painter, draughtsman and etcher, Christian Gottlieb Mietzsch, spent all his working life in Dresden, where he pro­duced a printed oeuvre that perfectly reflects the spirit of the late German Baroque. Of the five prints by the Saxon artist recorded by Nagler the imposing Entombment of Christ, which is full of Baroque pathos, is unquestionably his masterpiece. In 1756 Mietzsch enrolled at the Dresden Academy, where he was a student of Charles Hutin. The young artist’s talent was soon recognized and as early as 1763 he was appointed assistant schoolmaster and drawing teacher at the Academy. In the course of his artistic career he came to be known primarily for his virtuoso portraits in oil and pastel.

The present etching is based on one of the artist’s own compositions and bears a precise date; the inscription engraved by Mietzsch reads 5 March 1772. The skilfully composed picture with its many figures radiates grandeur and Baroque solemnity. It has been executed in a powerful and very varied etching technique which produces a restlessly flickering chiaroscuro effect. A large group of mourners has gathered in a vaulted burial chamber. Torchlight illuminates the heavy, lifeless body of Christ, which is carried by three young men straining visibly under the effort. Noble figures in oriental dress observe the proceedings in silence. Their restrained gestures heighten the drama of the event, which is theatrical in its presentation but free of any overstatement. Demonstrating great sensitivity and a keen eye for narrative detail, Mietzsch has produced a highly original interpretation of this episode from the Passion. A major contributory factor is his masterly etching technique, which reveals the strong influence of his teacher Hutin.

The etching is extremely rare. This is an early impression treated as a pure etching; the plate was later reworked with the burin, probably by another hand. A superb, contrasting impression with thread margins. Minor ageing, otherwise in pristine condition.