The Terrific Finale
No Frills Fantastic Main Sheet
in the Copy Counts Faber-Castell
of Graphically most Brilliant Delicacy
Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). OMNIA MIHI SUBDITA. The Rule of Death. Tomb with death from whose head with an hour-glass adorned with bat wings on top a veil flows down on the back and laterally, enthroned above all the stuff of this world – represented outer right by a hemisphere – as there are gold, goods, seals + orders, crowns, scepter, orb + weapons, folios + cassock, scientific + agricultural instruments and nolens volens maulstick + palette with brushes. The right, however, holds a high tombstone, pointing with an arrow marked as “Presens” in the left at the inscription’s said final words OMNIA MIHI SUBDITA. Mezzotint by Johann Jacob Ridinger (1736 Augsburg 1784). Inscribed: Ioh. Iacob Ridinger sculps. / Ioh. El. Ridinger delin. et excud. Aug. Vind., otherwise as above and below. 22½ × 16¼ in (57.3 × 41.4 cm).
their Ridinger sale 1958
with its lot no. 146/2
on the underlay carton
Radulf Count of Castell-Rüdenhausen
Schwarz (Gutmann Collection, 1910) 1477; Reich auf Biehla 296 ( “Extremely rare”, 1894 ! Without reference to state/version); Wend, Ergänzungen zu den Œuvreverzeichnissen der Druckgrafik, I/1 (1975), 270 with the knowledge of Schwarz; Faber-Castell 146 (together with Stillfried/Schwarz 1427 in state II as 14,857 here). – Cf. Niemeyer, (The Vanitas Symbolism with Johann Elias Ridinger) in Wunderlich (ed.), L’Art Macabre 2, 2001, illustration p. 105 (2nd state of St./Schw. 1427 in the copy of the National Print Room Munich).
Not in Thienemann (1856), Weigel, Art Stock Catalog, pts. I-XXVIII (1838/57), Silesian Ridinger collection at Boerner XXXIX (1885), Coppenrath Collection (1889 f.), Georg Hamminger Collection (1895), Helbing XXXIV (Arbeiten von J. E. und M. E. Ridinger, 1554 items; 1900), Schwerdt (1928/35), Rosenthal, Ridinger list 126 (1940).
The second version
of this incredibly fascinating sheet ,
not known to Stillfried (1876) and also not recognized as such by Schwarz and
identified here for the first time ,
in a copy of outmost beauty
and graphical refinement
as repetition with among others a decisive re-attachment of weight of Stillfried/Schwarz 1427 for which likewise for the first time a 2nd state with same pedigree could be proven and described here.
Schwarz’ presumption that the differences of present variant 1477 are merely due to the reworking of plate 1427 is incorrect. As proven below it is a work from its own plate whose thematic spotlight elucidates by a minor shifting a more specified message :
the “Presens” arrow directed at the sheet’s title
Schwarz 1427 / 14,857
Stillfried/Th. + Schwarz 1477 / 14,858
no longer points between the words OMNIA + MIHI ,
but directly at the M of MIHI !
While with respect to the presence of both variants, revealing the facts, the cataloguing for Faber-Castell was inadequate, so Schwarz’ erroneous assumption results just from his unawareness of that 1427’s second state of the plate shortened at top. For his variant 1477 represents in height the original format again, thus ends again just 1.5 cm above the arch. Whereas its width is c. 8 mm less with the result of a minor reduction of the image on both sides as missed by him. Just as generally the differing “small variants” (Schwarz) condense to a considerable, though only noticeable at repeated glance, mass which to confront with each other would lead too far here and not least reduce the joy, nay, the luck of own discovery for
who “still believes in the importance of states”
(Max Lehrs 1922 in laudatory appraisal of Old Masters collector Julius Hofmann). What must be regarded as downright unfair with respect to the presence here of both variants, 1427 + 1477, and by this the chance
of acquiring both sheets ,
just as once Counts Faber-Castell
though still having been dependant on the chance of a second opportunity.
But on the pleasure of the chance to compare both sheets a satisfaction of quite a different quality is impending in the present case as not recallable offhand for any other case of Ridinger’s mezzotints. For at least in its second state present here 1427 simply uses engraved outlines for the realization of the thematically conditioned exceedingly complex picture
instead of working everything out of the gradation
of light and shade as the principle of mezzotint
like present “repetition” 1477 ! Where engraved lines partially inevitably lead to more detailed chasing it is fascinating
to see its “ rougher ” realization being created
from the astonishingly difficult play of light + shade .
And to observe comparatively how cheap elsewhere, just also per 1427, such lines
tick off drapery , knit Goodman Death’s brow
Schwarz 1427 / 14,857
Stillfried/Th. + Schwarz 1477 / 14,858
or treat his limbs + joints, which
in the pure mezzotint of 1477 all grow out of itself !
Both versions are from Johann Jacob’s hand .
To compare them with each other thus leads far beyond the side-by-side of deviations of usual kind, rather is a going into the medias res of the technique itself . What a chance of learning , of entering the subtlety of graphic expressiveness , of the refinement of understanding of quality !
With his comparably only small mezzotinted contribution being so much in the shade of father and elder brother, with the present sheet of Schwarz 1477 Johann Jacob shows his equalness,
his whole mastership in the field of the brilliant mezzotint .
For how precious this difficult technique was esteemed by Counts Faber-Castell shows from their written inventory present here stressed per exclamation mark + underline as “Schabk!” (Mezzotint!). And accordingly 160 years ago Thienemann resumed with the words:
“ The mezzotints are almost not available in the trade anymore
… all worked by and after Joh. El. Ridinger (are) that rare that they are to be found almost only in some public, grand print rooms. I have come across most of the described ones only in the famous print room at Dresden … ”
(pages VIII + 270).
A situation also possible new editions could change little as according to the expert Sandrart (1675) the technically conditioned extremely fast wearing off mezzotint plate only permits 50-60 good impressions.
Just as the present sujet could be presented then for the first time by Count Stillfried only 20 years after Thienemann’s visits to the print rooms, but, mind you, only in the first state of 1427. Only 34 years later Schwarz then surprised with additionally 1477, of the latter after another interval of 48 years the copy of Counts Faber-Castell came onto the market, together with the second state of 1427 acquired in 1914, both then absorbed by the mezzotint-centered Ridinger collection of another count. And after a stay of 47 years there now here and today. With Schwarz 1477 as
pictorially marvelous zenith
of Ridinger’s vanitates
also pervading the hunting œuvre
of great compositional abundance, based upon own design, and by inclusion of the painter’s tools with the attributes of transitoriness going beyond the drawing “Self-portrait with Death” of 1767 in the Berlin Print Room (color illustrations in L’Art Macabre 2, s. a., p. 94 + Ridinger Catalogue Darmstadt, 1999, p. 54, as well as, b/w, per I.5, p. 61).
All in the radiating light of the one from whose head bat wings will lead away the run out hour-glass,
the “ Presens ” arrow determines the direction
and the “ Preteritum ” arrow points at the ground .
But in the quiver there is the arrow “Futurum” ,
however this will ever appear. And its banner flies, contrarily to both the two others, in jolly assuredness.
The tomb inscription (this as well in slightly varied writing to 1427) as following, wherein the hyphens of the last words of the first five lines have to be replaced by a “lis” each, that of the following six by an “are” as globally illustrated laterally:
“ Sum qui non curo quis aut qua- / Nil mihi dignitas Papa- / Nec valet majestas Rega- / Stultus et sapiens æqua- / Dives et pauper est morta- / Non juvat hic se excus- / Nec ad Apostolica(m) sedem apell- / Dona promitere aut don- / Seu clam se velle alien- / Pacem non mecum est tract- / Nec dico quando quis vel qu- // OMNIA MIHI / SUBDITA ”.
The Present arrow run from the skeleton’s left pointed at the M of MIHI .
The heavy stone slab itself typical for Ridinger as such one occurs repeatedly in his work up to the programmatic personal book-plate (Schwarz 1569) with his painter’s utensils where a boy armed with the maulstick holds it, manifesting the master’s absolute necessity of life: “Nulla dies sine linea” – No day without brush stroke. In the transitory junk of the sheet here the painter’s tools by the way once more a unison with Hogarth who closed his graphic work with the sheet of the Dying Time (Tail Piece, or The Bathos) of April 1764, thus six months before his death, on which, however, the palette additionally is demonstratively broken.
The excellently preserved copy
in an adequate impression
with surrounding margins 4-13 mm wide with supposedly watermark WANGEN together with separate IV as standing for contemporary impressions. – Of two utterly smoothed out folds running at each other in the center one backed outer left with slight pleat. Two weak parallel traces of folding, all barely perceptible from the front, moreover at the upper edge of the subject, one of which still traversing the termination of the arch. In this also an uninked hair-line crack running out from a tiny pleat coming from the top originating from printing. A few pin-head/tip-small abrasions. The slight touch of foxing spots on the back below not showing through into the subject.
In such a manner then a trouvaille of round about extreme rarity , documenting the inseparable-multi-layered Ridinger, the artist in his entirety. For the “harmless“ Ridinger of common art historian’s judgement never existed thank goodness. Rather he remained
“ one of the few German baroque artists
… who … never fell into oblivion ”
(Rolf Biedermann, [Master Drawings of German Baroque], 1987, p. 338). And presenting himself here in Johann Jacob’s rendering in a
really early impression
of incomparably beautiful plasticity .
In an absolute velvety brown and black
from which all bodily white shines in brown-white .
Offer no. 14,858 / price on application
“ Hello again! It arrived this morning – everything fine and ready for framing! Thank you for your kind assistance. Best regards ”
(Mr. J. R. L., May 25, 2005)