The Gift of the Counterfeiters


Johann Elias Ridinger, Crane of Oldenburg

The  Crane

of  Oldenburg  Count  Anthony  Günther

Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). Cheval d’Ostfriesland nomé la Grüe. The world’s most famous dapple-grey horse, the Crane at Oldenburg in East Frisia, with his master’s brand – A in 8-pointed star below crown – before thick oak foliage scenery. Colored etching/engraving after Jacob Theodor Klein. Inscribed: EQVVS Ostfris. / Der Kranich zu Oldenburg in Ost-Frießland. / as above / Familia I. Einhufige. / Ex Collection. J. Th. Kleinii Secr. Gedan. / J. E. Ridinger fecit et exc. Aug. Vindel. 12⅛ × 8 in (30.7 × 20.3 cm).

Thienemann & Schwarz 976. – 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.

With Jacob Theodor 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 Following Klein’s classification according to kind and number of extremities – superceded by Linné’s anatomical classification – the early states of some plates of the set still show references to his Quadrupedum dispositio brevisque Historia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.”


– main sheet of the set very rare in individual plates , too –

and correspondingly announced by the master himself per page 11 of his preamble to the Animal Kingdom

“ … albeit  the  presentation  of  the  singular  white  horse

with  such  a  long  tail  and  crest …

might  seem  almost  incredible  and  exaggerated ,

the matter nevertheless is absolutely true as His Honor the famous professor Klein at Danzig himself has kindly communicated such representation. This splendid creature has been bred in East Frisia , raised there , and been named

the Crane at Oldenburg.

As far as is known to us one has almost never seen something like this, although it was reported to us that such a white tail is shown by an isabelline colored horse in the natural history collection in Dresden (taxidermied; destroyed by later fire) and that at Florence there has been such a black horse, too .”

Here then the indeed historical background, as according to an adaptation by Isabelle Yeginer on a homepage of the city of Oldenburg on occasion of journeys count Anthony Günther (1583-1667, since 1603 Imperial Count of Oldenburg and, from 1647, Delmenhorst), horse lover of degree –

“ laid  the  foundation  for  the  still  today  flourishing  horse-breeding ”

and “ In  all  negotiations  he  did  not  spare  with  the  ‘presentation’

of  splendid  horses  from  his  own  studs ”

(Joh. Frdr. L. Th. Merzdorf, ADB I [1875], p. 492, and Hermann Lübbing, NDB I [1953], p. 317 resp.) –

fell into the hands of counterfeiters in a haunted castle and escaped with his life only by promising absolute secrecy.

“ Years later one evening count Anthony Günther sat in his home castle at his desk when there was a knock … The (now well-dressed) visitor was one of the counterfeiters of that supposed haunted castle in Holstein. ‘You have kept your promise’ he said … ‘and disclosed nothing of what you had seen then. For this you shall be rewarded. In the Blue House at the Dam a noble horse is ready for you, which is worthy of you.’ … There he found the Crane,

the  most  beautiful  horse  he  had  ever  laid  eyes  upon .

Still today, at the time of the Kramer Fair, count Anthony Günther is commemorated annually. Then he rides on his legendary Crane in front of the great Kramer Fair procession. ”

Watermarked Strasbourg fleur-de-lis above arms + C & I Honig (type Heawood 64/Churchill 428) 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 2-2.8 cm, below 5.2 cm wide. – Upper left in the white paper margin/platemark ¾ × 1⅝ in (2 × 4 cm) brown spotted, otherwise isolated little brown spots in the white plate field and the white margin resp. only, the latter below right also with thumb stain.

Offer no. 15,871 / EUR  1480. / export price EUR  1406. (c. US$ 1625.) + 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)

„ Ganz herzlichen Dank für Ihre netten Wünsche und die sehr interessante Lektüre (Wild + Hund 23/2008), über die ich mich sehr gefreut habe. Mein Glückwunsch zu diesem schönen Artikel über Ihr Ridinger Wirken und die damit verbundene und verdiente Anerkennung. An meiner ‚Ridinger – Sammlung‘ erfreue ich mich stets aufs Neue. Schon deshalb war die Anschaffung des Pompadour Bandes (1998) ein guter Kauf … Mit besten Grüßen, Ihr … “

(Herr O. v. L., 5. Januar 2009)


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