He was educated at Leipzig. He became professor at the Ritterakademie in Dresden in 1782. In 1795 he was appointed director of the Dresden Gallery of Antiques, and of the Coin Cabinet, and in 1805 he was also entrusted with the superintendence of the celebrated Green Vault.
His chief work was Taschenbuch zum geselligen Vergnügen (Handbook for social enjoyment; Leipzig 1791-1814). He was also the author of Erholungen (Recreations; Leipzig 1796-1810), Augusteum, Dresdens antike Denkmäler enthaltend (Augusteum, where Dresden's old monuments are; 1805–1809), with 162 engravings, Zweihundert seltene Münzen des Mittelalters (200 rare coins from the Middle Ages; 1813), and a large number of popular handbooks of art. He edited the Encomium Moriae of Erasmus (German: Lob der Narrheit, In praise of foolishness; Basel, 1780), and published the works of Holbein (Berlin, 1781).