Christian Daniel Rauch (Arolsen 1777 - 1857 Dresden)
Elisabeth, Queen of Prussia, Berlin, 1841
Carrara marble, 34.2 x 36.2 x 5.4 cm
Incised inscription ELISABETH KOENIGIN.V. PREUSSEN
Auguste von Liegnitz, second wife of King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia
Commissioned by her for the Villa Liegnitz, am Grünen Gitter, Sanssouci Park, Potsdam
Private collection, Berlin
Jutta von Simson, Christian Daniel Rauch, Berlin 1996, p.359, no. 226
Guido Maaz (ed.), Nationalgalerie Berlin. Das XIX. Jahrhundert, Bestandskatalog der Skulpturen, II, Leipzig 2006, no. 788
In 1835, Auguste von Liegnitz, the second wife of King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia, commissioned the sculptor Christian Daniel Rauch to execute a portrait relief of Crown Princess Elisabeth Ludovika of Prussia (1801-1873), daughter of Maximilian Joseph, Archduke of Bavaria. Elisabeth Ludovika was then the wife of Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, later King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia (1795- 1861). Until recently, only a stucco version of this portrait was known.
The present, recently rediscovered Carrara marble version of the portrait relief has long been considered lost. In 1841, after the death of Friedrich Wilhelm III, his widow, Auguste von Liegnitz, ordered alteration work to be carried out on her mansion in Sanssouci Park in Potsdam. This mansion was known as the Villa Liegnitz. The present portrait relief of the new queen, Elisabeth of Prussia, was commissioned by Auguste and designed to form part of the villa's decorative scheme.
Rauch depicts Elisabeth in a semi-circular niche set in a square panel in the tradition of Renaissance profile portrait reliefs. Heraldic motifs fill the spandrels above the niche - a Bavarian lion set on an olive branch at the left and a Prussian eagle set above what appears to be a palm frond at the right. These motifs project very slightly over the moulding which edges the panel. The bust-length portrait shows Elisabeth in sharply defined profile to the right. Her hair is coiffed in side curls and drawn up into a chignon behind her head. An ermine stole covers her shoulders, its edges projecting over the parapet-like upper edge of an inscription panel beneath the portrait. Elisabeth is holding in her left hand a sprig of lily of the valley, reputedly her favourite flower. Its extract was used in popular medicine in the treatment of heart conditions.
Rauch was the son of a valet de chambre in the household of the Princes of Waldeck in Hesse. He completed an apprenticeship as a stonemason in Helsen and worked under Christian Ruhl, a sculptor in Kassel. On the death of his elder brother, Rauch was obliged to support the family and took on his brother's post at the court in Potsdam. Here he was valet de chambre to Luise, Queen of Prussia (1776-1810). The Queen enabled him to continue work as a sculptor. In 1802, he contributed to an exhibition at the Berlin Academy of Art. Here, his work attracted the interest of the court sculptor Johann Gottfried Schadow. In 1804, Rauch left the royal household and set off for Rome. In Rome he was in regular contact with Wilhelm von Humboldt and drew inspiration from his study of the work of Antonio Canova and Bertel Thorvaldsen. He was also influenced by the work of the archaeologist Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker. In 1812 he was in Carrara working on a marble version of the tomb of Queen Luise. In 1819 he opened a studio workshop in Berlin's Klosterstrasse. Here he was to work with Friedrich Tieck and Karl Friedrich Schinkel. He had numerous patrons in Berlin and received a very large number of commissions from Ludwig I of Bavaria. He spent the latter part of his life working on a monument to Frederick the Great. Fêted in his own lifetime as his country's greatest sculptor, he founded a school of sculpture that was to produce sculptors of the calibre of Ernst Rietschel, Friedrich Drake, August Kiss and Reinhold Begas.
 Christian Daniel Rauch, Crown Princess Elisabeth of Prussia, stucco, 34 x 36 cm, incised inscription: ELISABETH KRONPRZS. V. PREUSSEN, Nationalgalerie Berlin, inv. RM 259.  Rauch executed another version of the portrait relief in marble in 1842. This was commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm IV as a gift to Queen Victoria of Britain. Rauch's diary entry of 21 December 1842 notes the presence of ‘marble victory figures' on the verso. Thus the present 1841 relief cannot be the version presented to Queen Victoria. See Maaz, op. cit., p.545; Simson, op. cit., p.359.  Maaz's description, see op. cit., p.544f.  Biographical details based on G. Bott and H. Spielmann (eds.), Künstlerleben in Rom. Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844). Der dänische Bildhauer und seine deutschen Freunde, exhib. cat., Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg 1991, p.730.