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).

Johann Elias Ridinger, The Rule of Death


Counts Faber-Castell

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

Johann Elias Ridinger, Omnia Mihi Subdita (Schwarz 1427)
Schwarz 1427 / 14,857
Johann Elias Ridinger, Omnia Mihi Subdita (Schwarz 1477)
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

the  connoisseur

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

Johann Elias Ridinger, Omnia Mihi Subdita (Schwarz 1427)
Schwarz 1427 / 14,857
Johann Elias Ridinger, Omnia Mihi Subdita (Schwarz 1477)
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.

Johann Elias Ridinger, Omnia mihi subdita

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

Counts  Faber-Castell

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

„ Habe heute Ihre Sendung dankend erhalten. Freue mich schon, das Buch meinem Mann … zu Weihnachten zu schenken. Liebe Grüße aus … am Dachstein “

(Frau K. G., 12. September 2007)


The  Cream  of  the  Day