ERNST FRIEDRICH KARL LANG (Hildburghausen 1748 – 1782 Nuremberg)

Ernst Friedrich Karl Lang

Ernst Friedrich Karl Lang (Hildburghausen 1748 – 1782 Nuremberg)

A Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) on a Branch

Watercolour and bodycolour, 285 x 196 mm (11.2 x 7.8 inch); with an early 20th-century washed mount and a gilt frame

- With dealer Georges Mayer, 52 Faubourg St Honoré, Paris, early 20th century (as E.F.C. Lang)
- Private collection, The Netherlands


Ernst Friedrich Karl Lang was born in Hildburghausen in 1748 as the son of the harpist and miniature painter Kilian Lang.1 He moved to nearby Nuremberg in 1755, where he was taught by the famed Barbara Regina Dietzsch (1706–1783), whose works highly influenced him for the remainder of his career: like Dietzsch, Lang painted birds and flowers in watercolour and gouache.

Dietzsch frequently favoured monochromatic backgrounds to her highly realistic depictions of animals and plants, many of which were owned by the Nuremberg physician and botanist Christoph Jacob Trew (1695–1769), while Lang generally employed landscape backgrounds. Lang may also have been inspired by Trew’s collections of naturalia, or indeed have worked for him. His works can be identified by the idiosynchratic delination of the leaves on the branches, which resemble fir branches.

A comparable gouache of a Goldfinch is preserved in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, and a Rose in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and others sheets are in the Staatsbibliohek in Bamberg. Lang’s works rarely occur at auction, but an album assembled during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which included eleven works by Lang came to the market in 2010 (fig.).2 The present sheet was already identified as a work by Lang when it was with the dealer Georges Mayer in Paris by the early twentieth century, which suggests it may have come from a similar album or group of works by Lang, some of which may have been signed – during this period, such bird gouaches were generally attributed to better known artists rather than the little-known Lang.


1. For the artist, see Manfred H. Grieb (ed.), Nürnberger Künstlerlexikon: Bildende Künstler, Kunsthandwerker, Gelehrte, Sammler, Kulturschaffende und Mäzene vom 12. bis zur Mitte des 20. Jahrhunderts, Munich 2007, pp. 881-82 and Heidrun Ludwig, Nürnberger naturgeschichtliche Malerei im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert, Marburg an der Lahn 1998, pp.212-13 and 281-82.
2. Sotheby’s, London, Travel Atlases, Maps and Natural History, 4 November 2010, lot 5; the gouaches by Lang c.288 x 208 mm.