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CHRISTIAN WILHELM ERNST DIETRICH
(known as Dietricy, 1712 Weimar – 1774 Dresden)

The Flight into Egypt. Two etchings in different states. Each measuring approx. 18.3 x 14.3 cm. Circa 1732–34. Linck 13 I (of IV) and IV.

The etching made in about 1732–34 is closely related to the drawing which is also included in this catalogue. Rembrandt’s pervasive influence is a characteristic feature of Dietrich’s style in his early period. Later his printmaking would also be strongly influenced by the other Dutch 17th century masters. Dietrich produced a total of some two hundred etchings. In his early period, in particular, he tended to grind down the copper plates after taking a few impressions and make a fresh start. The Flight into Egypt is on offer here in the first state in which the head of the baby Jesus is covered with a cap and his right arm is completely wrapped in a blanket. J. F. Linck, the author of the catalogue of Dietrich’s prints, drew attention to the extraordinary rarity of this state as early as 1846. The etching is executed in a relatively open and transparent manner, which is particularly effective in bringing out the warm light of the torch illuminating mother and child.

In the fourth state, which is also on offer, the plate has been completely reworked. The infant Jesus is now portrayed with his head uncovered and his right arm visible. The outlines of Joseph, the angel, the donkey, the tree trunk and the foliage have been emphasised with drypoint. The whole scene is now steeped in a dark, velvety black tone; the leaves behind Mary’s head and back have been removed and replaced by a neutral, greyish-black background. The stark contrasts between light and dark give even greater emphasis to the mother of God and the Jesus child. A superb, harmonious impression with even thread margins around the uncleaned platemark and a strong, contrasting impression with very wide margins respectively. Minor ageing, otherwise in pristine condition.