Sunday, 15 December 2013

Mathilde Reuss: a royal printmaker and a puzzle

Reuss, Mathilde

(Dresden 19-03-1853 – 1933 Dresden)
Princes and once heir to the throne of Saxony.

painter an printmaker.

(added 1-november 2015) It has become clear that the princes Mathilde is not identical with Mathilde Reuss, student of Angelo Jank and working in Munich. Mathilde Reuss known from a handful of color woodblock prints will be treated in an updated posting based on new information soon.   

Planning to compose a book on the first generation of German women  printmakers, born 1855-1900 and active before WWII I'm doing a lot of research lately, reading and checking biographies. Trying to fill up gaps and often starting with nothing. Like in this case. Who ever heard of Mathilde Reuss now considering there are two printmakers with that name.

It's combining archived pictures of prints gathered from old auction catalogues, books, on-line auction sites etcetera and the result of some serious puzzling together fragments, bits and pieces of facts and data. Today an example of my efforts unobscuring a forgotten and before unknown (unidentified) printmaking artist. My genealogical experience helping sometimes. 

The signature reads: Mathilde Reuß, München.  

Besides: Reuss or Reuß isn't a usual or "common" German family name either. It belongs to the House of Sachsen (Saxony), German (intermarried) royalty. Inherited from her great-great grandmother maternal: Countess Auguste Caroline Sophie Reuß zu Ebersdorf (1757 - 1831). Maybe her monogram in this African Storches or Marabus print is hinting at her royal status. RMR. the second R for Royal or Regina ?
Poster for the exhibition "Frauenkunst zum Besten fuhr Mutter und Kind" for the "Illustrierte Zeitung", Dresden 1912. 

So her full name is:  Mathilde Marie Auguste Viktorie Leopoldine Karoline Luise Franziska Josepha of Saxony, Duchess of Saxony. Eldest surviving daughter of King (for two years 1902-1904) George of Saxony  (1832-1904) and Maria Anna of Portugal (1843-1884). (They had 8 children but before Mathilde 2 girls died in infancy).
 Dresden Zoo Marabus or African Storks. Etching by Martin Erich Philipp

Princess Mathilde stayed unhappy and unmarried after being refused and rejected an arranged marriage by her fathers strategic choices. Twice. She was not a beauty and the lucky candidates obviously pernickety. Leaving the poor girl embittered,  seeking consolation in alcohol she was nicknamed “Schnapps Mathilde” by the Saxons. What a sad story. 
Marabus by Helene Grande-Tupke (1871-1946), in Breslau or Dresden Zoo.

Nevertheless Mathilde took up a career of painting and printmaking following painting lessons in Dresden with Alfred Diethe (1836-1919) from 1890 to 1901. And she was rich enough to have asked Norbertine Bresslern Roth (1891-1978) for some good advice because looking at her Marabus print she obviously was acquainted with her work. She certainly could afford summoning every artist in the land to her house in Dresden. 

She was given this villa in Dresden Hosterwitz. The von Sachsen-Coburgs were immensely, filthy rich: British Queen Victoria was one (by her mother) and she married one (prince Albert). Best way of keeping the money in the family and when you're lucky the children will turn out not too bad. Here Mathilde stayed, traveling, painting, making prints and posters, illustrating a book or two and maybe drinking once in while reflecting how her life would have looked like if she had married, had children like 3 of her 5 brothers and sister. Aunty Mathilde died in the villa aged 70 in 1933. What was left of the great house after the rage of WWII was broken up in shelters for the homeless first and later converted into dwellings for ordinary people. 

A bookplate made for Mathilde Reuss by Ferdinand Nockher, a Munich painter, illustrator and bookplate (ex-libris) maker.

See also the before posting for the Marabu print by Philipp Reisdorff: a coincidence. 

All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet fro friendly, educational and non commercial use only. 

The Marabu print by HTG: from the Japonism Blog. Thank you Lilly!


  1. Thanks for the credit, Gerrie. But even larger thanks to you for figuring out who was the artist! Did you recognize her signature? Anyway, I'm so happy to finally know!

    1. No I didn't Lily it was seriously puzzling and reading like Sherlock Holmes. Having seen so many pictures (also thanks to your Japonism) and trying to understand what was going on in that period helping in sometimes un-obscuring a forgotten artist printmaker. Who was Who and Who taught Who? I have a list of them and am constantly busy.

  2. Quite an entertaining piece of writing and pretty amusing, too. Nevertheless there are two issues. The handwriting clearly reads "München" not "Störche" or anything else. And this is for a good reason: Ingolstadt born Mathilde Reuß studied at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste (in Munich) under professor Angelo Jangk from 1926. Fat chance she was not even that old then (and not an ugly unhappy alky either). In other words: I guess you might have followed a wrong trail.


  3. Thank you Markus, another piece of the puzzle !
    Following up the wrong trial is sometimes necessary to find your way to the truth.