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Maria Katharina Prestel

1747 Nuremberg – 1794 London

The Nuremberg painter and engraver Maria Katharina Höll was Johann Gottlieb Prestel’s most gifted pupil and, in 1772, she became his wife. Maria Katharina bore him four children – all of whom went on to become artists – and was also his most important collaborator. Yet her role in the work of the studio was far from subordinate, as she developed into an internationally esteemed reproductive engraver in her own right. The couple specialized in making reproductive prints after paintings and drawings of old masters and contemporaries, which were mainly executed in the recently introduced aquatint technique and were distinguished by a high degree of technical mastery. Maria Katharina must have been a determined woman in private life as well. In 1786 she divorced her husband – an unusual thing to do at the time – and moved to London, which in the late 18th century was a flourishing centre of printmaking. Her industry, ambition and artistic prestige led to her being employed by such leading publishers as John Boydell and Molteno Colnaghi while enabling her to assert herself as an independent artist in England as well.