Rhino “Clara” — Colored

265  Years  ago  by  Ridinger



( Oudry’s Famous Three-Meter-Oil at Schwerin followed One Year later only )

“ Drawn  from  Life ”

by which “he countered the one by Dürer as the one hitherto considered unvariedly authoritative by a …

rendering  of  greater  natural  truth

adequate to the scientific standards of his time” (Stefan Morét) .

Johann Elias Ridinger, Rhinoceros (leaping)

Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). Asiatic Rhinoceros. Before reed and tree scenery leaping to the right. Colored etching & engraving. Inscribed: RHINOCEROS. / Nasehorn. / Rhinocerot. / Familia III. Dreÿhufige. / Joh. El. Ridinger ad vivum del. fec. et exc. Aug. Vind. 12⅛ × 8¼ in (30.8 × 20.8 cm).

Thienemann & Schwarz 1027. – IN  THE  RIDINGERS’  ORIGINAL  COLORING  from the unnumbered Colored Animal Kingdom created since 1754 and concluded finally posthumously not before 1773 (“Complete copies are next to untraceable”, so Weigel, Art Cat., part XXVIII, Ridinger Appendix 63a as merely 120-sheet torso, 1857 ! , but also just individual plates quite rarely on the market only, at niemeyer’s presently nevertheless the one as the others). – Remaining uncolored contrary to the prospectus, a second edition from the plates shortened even under loss of animals and with modified titling and the Ridinger inscription removed, yet now numbered, was published by Engelbrecht/Herzberg in Augsburg 1824/25.

Final state with the Familia line within the caption slightly moved up after the removal of the “Q. D. S. XI.” as reference to Jacob Theodor Klein’s Quadrupedum dispositio brevisque Historia Naturalis of 1751 unbeknown to Thienemann.

With Klein (“Plinius Gedanensium”, Königsberg 1685 – Danzig 1759; town clerk in Danzig, later director of the Society of Naturalists Danzig co-founded by him, member of the Royal Society, London, and honorary member of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg; ADB XVI, 92 ff.), famous for his collections, Ridinger was in close communication and supported in his Colored Animal Kingdom undertaking in many ways, too. Following Klein’s classification according to kind and number of extremities – superceded by Linné’s anatomical classification – the early states of some plates of the set still show references to his Quadrupedum dispositio brevisque Historia Naturalis of 1751, as known to Thienemann for some plates and documented here for several more by a complete copy available here. Ridinger himself emphasizes by the preface in his words of thanks “in particular the tremendously beautiful collection of P(rofessor). Klein of the Ludolph estate, which comprises nothing but original items.”

With watermark C & I Honig as that sturdy Dutch quality paper Ridinger used in line with his preamble to the Principal Colors of Horses

“on  account  of  the  fine  illumination”  for  the  colored  works

“as for this purpose it is the most decent and best”. – Margins on three sides 1.8-3.2 cm, below 5.1 cm wide.

Depicted  the  rare  Indian  one-horned  rhinoceros  “Maid Clara”

(Rhinoceros indicus Cuv. / R. unicornis L.), which Douwe Mout van der Me(e)r, master of the Knapenhoff of the East India Company, had brought from Asia to Holland in 1741 and shown in Europe until her death in 1758 (so Morét in Catalog Darmstadt; Rieke-Müller in [The XVIIIth Cent.] “About 1741/48”). In the course of which

“ as a skilful showman he published fair flyers and engravings with descriptions (‘about 1745 he probably was the first who had his name been mentioned on engravings of the rhinoceros ‘Maid Clara’ by which he deliberately stepped out of anonymity’, Rieke-Müller) … Interestingly enough that for the greater part of these graphic depictions of the rhinoceros worked in the 1740s one orientated oneself by Dürer’s famous woodcut of a rhinoceros of 1515 (Hollstein, ill., & Meder 273; Catalog Darmstadt p. 24 with ill.). This is not surprising in that Dürer’s depiction was copied again and again in the zoological works up to the 18th century and therefore had a lasting effect on the idea of the animal’s appearance.

By  his  rhinoceros  Ridinger  now  countered  the  one  by  Dürer

by a rendering of greater natural truth drawn from life and adequate to the scientific standards of his time ”

(Morét), after he had “seen her alive … at Augsburg” at her presentation May/June 1748 “when I

drew  her  in  (6)  different  positions  from  life ,

in the height I found her 5½. in the length 11½. feet, of color she was dark brown below at the trunk at the breast and in the depth of the folds superimposed upon each other she is broken reddish …” to add her, standing to the left, hot off the press to his Representation of the Most Wondrous Deer as well as Other Particular Animals published in numbers as first scientific portrayal of the rhinoceros and therefore a milestone of zoological knowledge (Th. 295; cf. nos. 50-55 of the Ridinger appendix of the catalog of the bequeathed drawings of 1869). But  for  now  just  in  black & white !

By which the matter would not have to rest, when from 1754 on his Colored Animal Kingdom was published, in which he now

published  two  of  his  further  Clara  drawings  for  the  first  time .

And  now  in  color !

Present Clara, leaping, and Clara sprawled to the left. The latter contrary to the original as severely criticized by Thienemann with second horn added by the master’s sons.

In line with its scientific rank,

Ridinger’s  rhinoceros

is  in  all  her  varieties  thematically  as  artistically

a  highly  sought-after  collector’s  item .

So the preparatory drawing intended for the transfer to the plate for the b&w sheet Th. 295 (Weigel 54) rocketed during its sale at Sotheby’s, London, 1991 from estimated 2-3,000 £ to 20,000 £ for the Ratjen Collection, Vaduz (acquired by The National Gallery of Art Washington in 2007). It originated from the 95-sheet drawing corpus of the Ridinger collection Counts Faber-Castell, which in their sale 1958 was paid for as a whole, including two further rhinoceros drawings (!), at 7800 (!) German marks. And still more recently in a German sale a copy of the b&w print Th. 295 was bid, doubling the estimate, to a final price of well 1850 euro!

Appropriately spectacular (“Spectacles must be”, Maria Theresa, “half resigning”) at that time the presentation of “Maid Clara” at Augsburg, which latter at the same time was paid reverence to as metropolis :

“ ‘Strange’ animals had … a special cultural value beyond the courtly life, too, if they contributed to the increase of the attraction of a metropolis like Vienna and the amusement of its citizens … ‘All diversions which delight the senses in an innocent manner … belong to the comforts and advantages of big cities, making the stay pleasant for both residents and strangers’, it is said in a legal treatise ”

(Annelore Rieke-Müller in “‘a Guy with Wild Animals’ – On the Social Position and the Self-conception of Animal Leaders in the 18th Century” in The XVIIIth Century, as above, wherein R.-M. also calls attention to the competition of such urban events towards the courts, just as then the French court would have acquired “Maid Clara” only too gladly for its menagerie at Versailles, yet had to forgo due to the great costs for such exotic animals, 100,000 ecus for the same, 2000 guilders for an elephant in 1690.

Appropriately the 2-months show then was one of the really big local events for Augsburg. For according to Rieke-Müller “CLARA” was

the  one  and  only  rhinoceros  of  the  18th  century  on  the  European  continent !

Portrayed  and  adequately  available  here  then  as


“ It is quite a well-made representation, leaping , and excellently colored . It is a pity it is so little known and used for scientific works ” (Thienemann 1856).

The aspect of an “increasingly natural history curiosity” becoming in vogue claimed by R.-M. for the 2nd half of the century and proven per 1775 ff. Ridinger had incidentally anticipated – as just another example – already 1744 per title to his Fable set.

As on the other hand by his Elephant and the Rhinoceros (Th. 721) he confirms the ancients with Pliny at the head, according to which due to his horn the rhinoceros ultimately dominates in the fight of the in principle equal colossal pachyderms, appropriately dreaded by the elephant. Documented the wish of King Manuel I of Portugal for an exhibition fight between an elephant and the rhinoceros he had received from Goa in 1515. The former, albeit still young of age, bolted when only catching sight of the latter.

Present pleasant picture therefore – “It is said, too, that the rhinoceros … were cheerful, too”, so Dürer in his broadsheet of Manuel’s rhinoceros, though obviously enough not rendered from life – of highly weighty content. Ridinger — artist & educationalist. And anticipator, again, of the morrow. For what stands for the Epoch of Sturm und Drang, is to be found already in his 8-sheet series of the Fights of Killing Animals, dating back to the 1730s (ll. 1-4, with text added by Brockes, † 1747) and held back for decades with but too good reason (Th. 716-723, complete of greatest rarity, here available). An unrivalled attack on despotism and abuse of power in a social system at which he hurls his and Brockes’ beacon for freedom and humanity. For what also, although as mitigated own text for the late plates of the 1760s, the prelude to the Elephant and the Rhinoceros stands:

“ So  big  and  mighty  is  no  creature  in  the  world ,

That  has  not  his  enemy , who  is  a  match  for  him .”

For full text along with illustration see Ridinger Catalog Darmstadt, 1999, IV.6, page 95.

Offer no. 15,869 / EUR  1300. / export price EUR  1235. (c. US$ 1428.) + shipping

Ridinger’s Colored Animal Kingdom in Original Coloring

available in

A Great Plenitude of Individual Plates


An Absolutely Exceptional Complete Provenance Copy

  1. “famous work which the merited naturalist Jacob Theodor Klein in Danzig published 1751 under the title: Quadrupedum Dispositio brevisque Historia Naturalis. Enlarged and revised, he had translated it into the German himself and his friend Gottfried Reyger published it 1760 under the title: J. Th. Klein’s Natural Order and Augmented History of the Quadruped Animals. Ridinger was in close communication with Klein, was supported by him in many ways in this (Animal Kingdom) undertaking and followed Klein’s system” (Th., p. 200)

„ vielen Dank für die prompte Lieferung! … Nach diesem Kupferstich (Hogarth, Sleeping Congregation) habe ich übrigens ziemlich lang gesucht – offenbar immer an der falschen Stelle – und bin jetzt außerordenlich froh, ein so unversehrtes Exemplar zu besitzen … Herzlichen Dank noch mal und freundliche Grüße “

(Herr C. K., 28. Juni 2012)


The  Cream  of  the  Day