Supposedly  the  First  Representation

of  the  Hyphasis  Moment  in  Art  History

as  simultaneously  anticipation

of  the  change  of  history  painting

two  generations  before  J. L. David .

Ridinger’s  Alexander  Drawing  of  1723

as  maybe  the  most  spectacular  drawing  of  the  century .

Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). Alexander the Great at the Hyphasis in Punjab, India, in Autumn 326 B.C. The Zenith of an Empire, a Turning-point of History. Offering scene amidst the camp on the banks of the Hyphasis (today Beas/Bis River, also Vjâsa; to the old Indians Arjilzi or Vip[as] River; tributary of the Indus). Pen and brush with brown ink heightened with white and black border. Inscribed in brown ink lower right on the upper step of the altar: Ioha: Elias Ridinger: inv: et del Ao. 1723 Aug: vin. 489 x 524 mm (19.3″ x 20.6″).


WELTKUNST  LXIV, 20, p. 2687



L. H. Niemeyer, (Ridinger the Unknown. Aspects to the work of the painter, draughtsman, and graphic artist), in: WELTKUNST 1994/20, pp. 2687 ff.; The same, (Dresden Address – The Minimized Ridinger.) Enlarged and revised internet version of the speech delivered to the audience of the Ridinger ceremonial act of the Technische Universität Dresden at Grillenburg Castle on April 27, 1998; The same, (The Vanity Symbolism of Johann Elias Ridinger.) Lecture to the audience of the 6th annual meeting of the European Dance Macabre Association at Bamberg on April 29, 2000, published in the 2nd yearbook of the society, L’Art Macabre 2, ed. by U. Wunderlich, 2001, pp. 94 ff. Enlarged internet version; Peter G. Tsouras, Alexander’s Most Heroic Moment, in: “MILITARY HISTORY”, 2004/2, pp. 26 ff.

Nagler XIII, pp. 160 + 162 (“At the beginning there he painted several historic descriptions for the art dealer Dan. Herz” [recte Jeremias Wolff, additionally documented for Herz, too, 1732 only], of these the two known engravings to Alexander qualified as “rich compositions”); Thieme-Becker XXVIII (1934), 308-311: VII. (Miscellania: Battles of Alexander the Great, Thienemann no 917 f.).

Autonomous  work  of  sheer  exciting  density

to  the  Alexander  cycle

not  provable  in  the  graphic  work

as, however, politically incorrect obviously published neither by Wolff Heirs nor Herz.

Capturing that critical moment when both the reluctance of the troops to march on, unfavourable sacrificial signs, and the futility of his Achilles-like fume stopped the Indian campaign and Alexander realized that he must turn back. And showing a king who accepts this moment and therewith subordinates the ruler’s vision of the completion of the Empire on Ganges and Ocean, as in ideas lying near at hand, to the small-minded, but understandable earnest longing of his soldiers for finally getting home to wife and kid after 8-years’ fighting, marching 18000 km, the last two months of which at continuous rain. And therewith accepts the zenith of his own history.

In  the  light  of  military  history

2330 years later Peter G. Tsouras shall term this process in MILITARY HISTORY’S (XXI, 2) title story “ALEXANDER THE GREAT. Lone Stand in India / Alexander’s Most Heroic Moment”

“ the  only  defeat  Alexander  had  ever  suffered ”.

And besides the greatest one possible. Sustained subsequent to his greatest victory few months ago, at the Hydaspes River (Dschilam River) against Porus. Demonstrated by illustration of the drawing here :

“ An  illustration  by  Johann  Elias  Ridinger

shows  Alexander  after  the  Hydaspes ,

facing  his  greatest  defeat :

being  compelled  to  turn  back

at  the  behest  of  his  own  weary  officers  and  troops .”

“ Alexander had always had a fine feel for what would motivate his commanders. A Macedonian king was still very much an Indo-European chieftain whose position was more first among equals than absolute master. That relationship had been changing as Alexander’s conquests grew, much to the chagrin of his Macedonians … (But when at the Hyphasis not even his Achillean sulking helped no more) at last the pragmatist in him won out. He seized upon bad omens (of the incense offering) to announce that the army would return home. ”

As Ridinger after previously having worked two conventional glorifying Alexander drawings (The Siege of Halicarnassos + The Passage of the Tigris, both still engraved by others) now takes up the psychological greatness of this moment

of  an  especially  intellectual  capitulation , too ,

as  the

unprecedentedly  civilizing  moment  pure  and  simple

and understanding it as his quite personal (preliminary) artistic result of this unparalleled life he intellectually grasps far ahead of his own, the baroque age. Therewith anticipating the development of the hitherto existing history painting

from  the  depiction  of  heroic  acts

to  the  reflection  on  these !

by two generations.

An art-historical merit for which in literature still the time of about 1800 stands with the celebrated painting of the unproven saga of the Byzantine general Belisarius by Jacques Louis David of 1780/81 as crucial experience and starting-point of this new conception of painting.

How here by Ridinger the suspense-charged moment of the flowing cloak of history is illustrated stands not only by itself alone as a

psychologically  brilliant

master  performance

of the just 25-year-old

At the same age Thomas Mann e.g. finished the ‘Buddenbrooks’ laying with it the foundation of his international reputation, so Lennartz in 1952, what one hundred years later Heinz Berggruen lets ask for the origin of the worldly wisdom and maturity for this, Gottfried Benn published with “Under the Cerebral Cortex” his first prose text, which he later “uses so to speak as quarry” (FAZ 8-24-01 + 8-22-03) – , and, in order to consult directly fine art, the just 23-year-old Rembrandt suggests by his 1629 The Raising of Lazarus “that the still … familiar interpretation of the theme … doesn’t play a rôle for him anymore”, which startling picture his friend Lievens, 24-year-old, even tops by his radical 1631 interpretation of the prayer moment before the raising. And similar examples of colleagues more.

“ The relation to the newness shows for a youth, not yet ‘over-sophisticated’ by art tradition, (just) far less complicated than for many a mature artist.

By unconventional , unprejudiced attempts and experiments

the young artist conquers the inner access to the works in the first place ”

(Herwig Guratzsch, Die Auferweckung des Lazarus, 1980, I, pp. 92 + 156).

but proves him directly as

a  master  of  modernity.

On whose inner break with the heroic pathos, here taking place only still perhaps more unconsciously – Wolf Stubbe finally characterizes him as a “systematist, (a) man of intention” appealing to the  “reflecting  consciousness” – , already in the ’30s – published only in 1760! – in his “Fights of Killing Animals” (Th. 716 ff.), worked in association with B. H. Brockes (1680 Hamburg 1747), a verdict of the Alexander campaign of merciless rigour follows by identification of a furious predacious animal lacerating an ass with Alexander :

“ … But stop, your cruel picture impresses myself didactic ideas, too!

Should a world conquerer’s look not be still much more horrible?

Stirring up even more horror in ourselves? and must the fury of this animal not retreat in opposite to him and the untold corpses lacerated by his savage word?

The  hunger  spurs  on  the  leopard , but  wantonness  Alexander .

If that sheds the blood of one animal, so this entire streams. Of 50000 of his own by iron bought jaws, come let us then look a picture of the Wild Victor so you can do so some day. His look, so far as you can hit it well, takes surely precedence over this bloodthirsty animal regarding fury, frenzy, and atrocity. ”

At which the 8-sheet fighting set serving Ridinger further as wrapping for coincident reckoning with the own absolute authorities – which together are his clients! – and therewith

as  a  torch  of  freedom  and  humanity

being  meant  for  the  system  as  such .

Ridinger – so Brockes at the same place – “even forces our free mind, he can move even the spirit And at will … excites (the) human feeling”.

Purely artistically after all the Alexander drawing reflects already Ridinger’s whole fullness and mastership. It is a pictorially and thematically richly created early work of large size with also horses + dogs as the signs of his fame giving an insight into the master’s creative process, too :

Johann Elias Ridinger, Alexander the Great at the Hyphasis

The  half  kneeling  king  before  the  altar

with  diadem

as  the  final  result  invisibly  mounted

over  a  more  modest  design  as  a  soldier  with  helmet .

So little dramatic these proceedings ultimately are so they stand, nevertheless, in context to a famous predecessor: to the 1642 half-length portrait of Richelieu in the profile to right by Philippe de Champeigne in Strasbourg (inv. no. 44.987.2.I) as the doubtless “finest half-length portrait of Richelieu” (Sylvain Laveissière in the Montreal/Cologne exhibition catalog Richelieu – Art and Power, ed. by Hilliard Todd Goldfarb, German edition Cologne 2002, p. 263/II). And

“ The examinations in the research laboratory of the Musées de France have proved a complex working out … Besides the radiograph shows that  the  face  in  the  profile  has  been  painted  over  another  one … ”

And therewith only doing justice to the greatness of this moment realized by Alexander. Shoulder wrap + armor (compare with the ancient warrior Th. 870, too) as well as the curls falling over his shoulders correspond with the Alexander of the Passage of the Tigris Th. 918, but also the one of the LeBrun/Audran set. The deciphering of the scenery itself is unmistakable :

Literature only knows three battle pieces of which one is dedicated to Pharaoh’s death in the Red Sea (Th. 916; to the knowledge here created maybe much later, published at least – and now by Ridinger himself, too – probably only by the mid-40s, engraved by the stepson Seutter, b. 1717), both the aforementioned other two just to Alexander. Whose sacrifices, especially as incense offerings as here, are documented exemplarily.

While the one sunken in prostration here , demonstratively assigned to the king ,

Johann Elias Ridinger, Alexander the Great at the Hyphasis

documents Alexander’s late period .

For only 327 – one year before the event at the Hyphasis ! – he ordered such disgrace on his own race! Enforcing by death penalty! And above all having to enforce it first! A by no means to be overestimated indication of the king’s advanced loss of touch by which he laid

a weighty seed to the alienation

and therefore contributed to the failure of his vision of a ruler just before getting all he wanted. The prostration here in such a manner seamlessly fits into Ridinger’s idea of reflection.

And finally supported not least by its strong vanity symbolism, see below, present scenery corresponds as a whole in every aspect with the events of autumn 326 at the Hyphasis in Punjab as the turning-point in Alexander’s life. Here – as both subject of the drawing – the refusal of the army to march on to the Ganges and adverse signs in the offerings ended the Indian campaign.

“ From the Hindu Kush he came down with his Macedonian-Persian army into the tropically hot plain of the Indus basin … Here, too, Alexander defeated any resistance. Neither chariots nor war elephants were of any use for the Indians against Alexander’s horsemen and phalanges. Yet finally the strength of his warriors was exhausted. When they reached the Hyphasis, the easternmost tributary of the Indus, they refused to march on to the east.

For more than two months it had rained incessantly. So far the Macedonians had marched about 18000 km; now they wanted to go home. Alexander was furious and stayed in his tent for days on. There was a gloomy silence in the camp. The king assembled the officers. He told them … From the Ganges, however, so Alexander continued, it were not far anymore to the beach of the ocean. This were aim and end of their campaign. – Silence again was the answer until finally one of the captains picked up courage to answer the king: the Macedonians were far from home already too long. They longed for father and mother, for wife and child. With them they want to spend the rest of life.

Alexander  realized  he  had  to  turn  back … ”

(Voelske-Tenbrock, Zeiten und Menschen, B/I, 84).

The retreat – down the Indus up to the Ocean – began, death followed three years later. Ending an unparalleled Achilleian life – “great fame with early death or a long, but inglorious life”.

“ Alexander the Great (b. 356, since 336 king of Macedonia) … greatest conqueror of all times … His … tutor … from his 13th year on the famous Aristotle. To him the fame is due to have awakened in the passionate boy the thought of greatness, that sublimity and austerity of thinking which ennobled his passions and gave his power moderation and consciousness … His example was Achilleus ”

(Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, 4th ed., I [1889], 316/II).

” Many legends grow around the young hero early on … He renews the Panhellenic league created by Philipp and leads it. He gave the Macedonian gold coins … a new design. The heads is furnished with the head of the tutelary goddess of Athens, Pallas Athena, who wears the Corinthian helmet … The tails is graced in anticipated wish fulfillment by Nike, the goddess of victory … We see in the gold medal by what imperturbable confidence he skillfully pursues his political plans, carries them through efficiently and systematically and is in for a glorious victory … (The) multitude of mints and the enormous quantities of minted gold alone provide us with knowledge of the greatness of the empire and of the vigorous personage of its founder Alexander. Long beyond the early death of its young founder his gold coins were minted on in the sphere of the then world which Alexander had ruled on almost entirely ”

(Hermann Kochs, Geprägtes Gold, 1967, p. 47).

This the scope of the historic sphere of a youthful grandeur whose zenith equally fascinated Ridinger, being of almost the same age, as had him probe it by present exciting drawing.

Its  deeply  staggered  scenery  embedded  in  moonlight

of  pictorially  splendid  creation :

Johann Elias Ridinger, Alexander the Great at the Hyphasis / Priests

In the right third of the picture three laurel-wreathed priests standing around the altar stone on which slender wood billets support a heavily smoking fire. Two of the priests, one of whom at the same time supposedly adding an essence to the fire from a longish holder, looking upwards searchingly, while the one in front, holding a laurel bunch in the right hand, turns with telling gesture to the king kneeling before the pedestal steps and a censer. Wearing a plain crown, he has crossed his left before him. Behind him a man sunken in prostration, see above.

Right in front before the steps, just like watching over the signature there, two characteristic Ridinger dogs as they figure, for instance, in Th. 298 (cf. Ortega y Gasset, Meditationen über die Jagd, 1981, p. 65). Above the dogs a show-piece with two serpents as

“ Symbol of the world soul coiling through all antagonisms of physical and spiritual life … Most frequently the serpent cult seems to have originated on the one hand from the worshipping of underworld deities and on the other hand from the once widespread fire worship by personifying the licking, hissing, biting flame as serpent, therefore the representation of the Indian, Egyptian, Persian, and Greek fire gods as serpent … However, inspired by the different shape and manner of movement as well as the mysterious effect of the poison other circles of ideas mixed in, and thus a manifold symbolization of natural forces and religious ideas is present here, so that the repeatedly attempted reduction to one underlying idea of the whole (serpent service) necessarily had to fail ”

(Meyers, op. cit., XII, 405, 1 and XIV, 502, 1 resp.).

Likewise turned squarely towards the offering scene flanked by two torch bearers the splendid Ridinger horse – in frame and position comparable i. a. to the one of the Chasseur aux levrieres from the Falconers set from the later phase, Th. 124, ill. Ortega p. 2, otherwise in the style of that likewise fully inscribed pen-and-ink drawing of the hold-up of an ammunition train from 1720, which figured in the 80s in Swiss trade – , mounted by a commander with serpent helmet.

This entire scenery of the foreground set off in steps from the army camp proper. Among the tents in front also that of the king. The canopy-like cloud formation shaped like a tent roof above the latter probably as suggestion of the so far protective hand of the gods and in such a manner embedded in the picture’s yet to be discussed rich symbolic importance. Yet first

unmistakable  the  atmosphere  of  threatening  mutiny .

Johann Elias Ridinger, Alexander the Great at the Hyphasis / Warriors

Key figure here the aforementioned mounted commander left behind the king. He is at the head of a mounted troop pressing onto the narrow plateau, which he by no means attempts to push back as the officer next to him successfully demonstrates towards foot soldiers demanding reply. His attitude rather utterly concentrated on the scene by the altar stone, with the lance readily poised in this direction, ready to have his time come if necessary. Visibly little well-intentioned, too, the four soldiers far left in the picture. Within this context the sketchy groups between the tents should discuss the morale of the army. Facing the plateau finally the riding squad set off still farther.

The face of the mounted commander by the way comparable to that of the officer of Th. 837 from the first part of the Several Figures from Antiquity useful to History published in 1728. The officer fending off the foot soldiers in turn used again by Ridinger after 1756 for Th. 876 from his set Roman and Greek Soldiers. Shown in the very same backward position, although less muscular and rather observing than acting. Yet also the warrior behind the commander of Th. 837 in his mollycoddle guise similar to one of the mutinous foot soldiers of the drawing.

This specific conveying of events is complemented, no less threatening, by symbolism. In its deliberate application Ridinger shows himself quite close to the 17th century Netherlanders as the grandmasters of vanity imagery. Regarding this just as a reflection of the daily perception of nature’s becoming and passing away, of death’s belonging to life, would miss the heart of the matter and ignore the golden thread running through the œuvre up to the terrific drawing Self-Portrait with Death as 70-year-old from the Weigel Collection, Th. pp. XXI f., no. 4, now in the Printroom Berlin.

Johann Elias Ridinger, Alexander the Great at the Hyphasis / Broken Tree

Next to as especially strong illustrated by the boughless young tree on the left of the 29-year-old king broken by tempest, the longest chip of which rising to heaven like a warning finger.

“ A  cross  between  stump  and  dead  tree

represents  the  trunk  splintered  off  at  half  height  (windfall)

with  the  splits  of  the  break

being  used  as  graphic  motif ”

(Fredo Bachmann in 1975 referring to Aert van der Neer, Oud Holland LXXXIX, p. 221 + ills. 4).

Ridinger’s tree symbolism so emphatically documented by literature and not even critically discussable. And the latter not as long as tracked game met its actual huntsman in the end from front. Hidden behind a dead tree. So, e.g., on the early water hunt Th. 10 of the same year as the Alexander drawing with the branches of just the dead tree hanging threateningly over the water. Just in context to this simultaneous etching with the equating double symbol of dead tree + hunter with the stag taking to flight into the fatal aura of both the gloomy metaphorical language of the attributes of the Alexander drawing receives its final confirmation, whose multiple importance for the work thus can not at all be overestimated.

It should be reminded, too, of the half-dead tree by the wayside of the forced recruit on Thienemann 1148, Schwarz I, plate XXXVII. Then of the dead and the dying tree resp. on Schwarz 1310 – vol. I, pl. II – from the allegoric set worked together with J. E. Nilson, here with the significant title “The Wrong”.

That these vanity conclusions drawn from trees are deep-rooted indeed also Bachmann traces back to their important late Mannerist sources and interprets “these occurrences as expression of the intellectual conditions of the time as it suggests, e.g., from the emblematic (cf. Handbuch der Sinnbildkunst des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts, ed. by A. Henkel, Stuttgart 1967: p. 226 ‘Oak split’ and p. 252 ‘Pine uprooted’)”. “Intensified in the highest degree the marks of destruction showing on those landscapes of R. Savery worked about 1614 which are known to us as engravings by Ägidius Sadeler” (footnote 27). And it is just a drawing by Savery (Tyrolese “Boslandschap met Jagers” from at the latest 1609) Ridinger quotes in the said water hunt of 1723.

To have called in Bachmann in the state of witness volunteered from his unsuspiciousness contrary to an intensified search for emblematic marks for their own sake. So in his noble monograph on van der Neer of 1982 thereto he finds very clear words:

“ Recently one has begun – if only it may be possible – to understand even the Dutch landscapes with their indispensable motifs as memento mori, because one had done so occasionally in the 17th century. There are particulars in the landscapes, indeed, –

the  Tree  of  Saturn , the  tree  stump  etc.

– which allow such interpretation … but at first we estimate the landscapes quite innocently as splendid painting and as pictures of great beauty and poetry. ”

(Fredo Bachmann, Aert van der Neer, Bremen 1982, page 83, footnote 97).

Johann Elias Ridinger, Alexander the Great at the Hyphasis / Broken Columns

In this context then also the ruins of the columns vis-à-vis of the broken young tree and the offering scene of the Alexander drawing find their additional meaning and here especially the two breaks of the one and, worse, the quite new wedge announcing a fall into the camp. Corresponding with Jack Wasserman in respect of “the architecture breaking down as expression of the decaying Hebrew culture” in Leonardo’s Adoration of the Kings.

In such a way here then already reaching far beyond the still fully round disk of the moon as symbol of the zenith, although this itself inevitably is an attribute of vanity as well. For light and power are winged by sun. Just as then by Albrecht Altdorfer’s Battle of Alexander – see ist further mention in the following – so marvellously illustrated:

“ … and behind a phantastic landscape with mountains, rocks, towns, and the sea, in which the rising sun reflects in golden glow, while the moon pales, allegories of Alexander’s victory and the defeat of the Orientals ” 333 at Issus

(Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie I, 358).

The latter as straightforward allegory of the victory of the one and the defeat of the other. Bare of any vanity. Alexander pure as still unchallenged hero of the courts and therefore of the arts of the 17th century and beyond. Up to, indeed, Le Brun’s aerial fireworks ignited for the sun king. And further fifty years later to the only just rising Ridinger’s two first Alexander plates. For their follow-on work, however, there are not just seven years between Issus and Hydaspes/Hyphasis, but foremost Poros admonition towards the victor to bear in mind the frailness of human greatness. And if “no one other than Le Brun could have created (Alexander’s Triumphs)” (see above), so his thematically only to gladly repressed “only defeat … ever suffered” (Tsouras) by an artist still filled with a freedom fresh as dew, going in medias res. Who is no longer fascinated by the master of the fields of Gaugamela and Halicarnassus, rather traces the reversion of the man let alone in his thinking and volition by the Hyphasis. And whose search for divine objective in incense offering and inward becoming one for Ridinger seems portrayable even without the symbolism of the moon only as night scene. After all the night “is mentioned in some scriptural passages as the time of divine revelations, so that it accounted

as  time  of  self-communion  and  spiritual  realization. ”[1]

And how should Ridinger not have been acquainted with for instance Daniel 7.2 — “… saw a face in the night” — to whom nine years later he would dedicate his Daniel in the Den of Lions not transferred into copper by himself (the preparatory drawing of 1732 here available) ! And what a distance between Altdorfer’s victory fanfare of 333 and Ridinger’s Alexander twilight of 326!

For the vanitas context cited here loosely in addition the only posthumously published self-portrait Th. XIX, 1 – Schwarz I, pl. I – inspired by Watteau’s design, with the master in the woods behind the finished painting, communicating by expression and gesture of his right hand a “That’s it” as corresponding to the dry branch hanging down from the elder tree on the left. Or to the half-dead tree by the wayside of the forced recruit in Th. 1148, Schwarz I, pl. XXXVII. Then to the dead and half-dead stunted tree in Schwarz 1310 – vol. I, pl. IL – from the allegoric set worked jointly with J. E. Nilson, here with the significant title The Wrong.

But in 1723 the 25-year-old Ridinger is no longer interested to depict a further Alexander as the contemporaries wish to see their heroes. With the 326 events at the Hyphasis he picks up another side of the man showing him – still – not less great, but on another field. On the field of a new civilized culture (recallably Alexander was the first who no longer enslaved the vanquished so these subjected themselves to him). And therewith

Ridinger  sets  up  the  modern  history  painting .

Sixty  years  before  J. L. David .

And together this drawing with its splendid chiaroscuro is

a  wonderful  example  of  Ridinger’s  early  maturity  and  perfection

as stated repeatedly already with regard to others of his early works. So, among others, Ernst Welisch in his (History of the Augsburg Painters in the XVIIIth Century), 1901, p. 92, quoting Thienemann for the capabilities after his return – not before 1719 – from the three-year stay in the house of Baron (so Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie opposed to Kilian/Thienemann, “Count”) Metternich in Regensburg: “(so that all connoisseurs admired him for his skill and power reached as well in historic as animal pieces)”. Or Nebehay, cat. 88, 2, in respect of the 1721 drawing to Thienemann 1: “(hence this drawing is of importance for the knowledge of his style already perfect in young years)”. And in such a way corresponding with

“ In art great caliber is present in its perfection from the beginning .

Also  the  first  works  of  an  artist  have  this  caliber

already in themselves , in their originality , in their perfect shape . There is nothing of that development of the artist of which there is so much speaking .

There  is  not  any  development  of  the  great  caliber  in  art “

(Gershom Scholem in his 1958 laudatory on Samuel Josef Agnon quoted after Itta Shedletzky in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of March 7, 2007).

This drawing will set a new standard for Ridinger’s rank in art history .

Correspondingly Alojzy Oborny, director of the Polish National Museum at Kielce, 1997 in the catalogue to the 1½-year Ridinger touring exhibition as “the largest one of the engravings and mezzotints of one of the most excellent German XVIII century graphic artists in Poland” :

“ This  artist  was  fairly  underestimated  in  the  past ,

but  his  rank  in  art  history

rises  higher  and  higher  in  time .”

As already in 1987 Rolf Biedermann criticizing stated :

“ one of the few German baroque artists who since his death 220 years ago never fell into oblivion, whose animal and hunt depictions are highly coveted by collectors till today, highly priced by dealers … so (that) the limited attention surprises the science of art has shown towards him so far … (and) the highly limited balance of his artistic appreciation ”

(Augsburg exhibition catalogue [Master Drawings of German Baroque], p. 338).

The quality of this early drawing for that group of Alexander events published by Herz indirectly supported by Biedermann’s reference to Herz as a publisher “with an eye for quality”. And there was

not  one  single  even  remotely  similar  drawing

in Ridinger’s bequest of c. 1849 drawings Weigel took over in 1830 (cf. Johann Elias Ridinger’s Art Bequest in Drawings within the 1869 Catalog of a Collection of Original Drawings founded and bequeathed by J. A. G. Weigel). Nor has any become known since then including the large sale of 234 items in 146 lots from the “Fine Collection of Drawings … by Joh. El. Ridinger from the Possession of a well-known Collector” by Wawra in Vienna on Mai 19 ff., 1890, or within the corpus of 95 drawings of the earls of Faber-Castell sold in 1958.

As then analogous with Donald Posner’s (1959) assumption in respect of the Poros theme within LeBrun’s Alexander Cycle Ridinger’s drawing here supposedly

the  first  representation

of  the  world-historic  Hyphasis  moment  in  art  history

and therewith a rarity of the first and foremost order . Unparalleled and not exchangeable . Necessitating an art-historical re-evaluation .

Not least the drawing is embedded within a milleniums old Alexander tradition. Moreover embedded in its own time as one of especially intensive Alexander activities on manifold levels. Only recently Dr. Krämer, the Augsburg curator em. of baroque painting, found out that the furious pen-and-ink-drawing by Anton Maulbertsch (1724-1796) of the inv. no. G 5244-79 truly is showing Alexander at the corpse of Dareios. See its reproduction along with the old interpretation pp. 316/17 of the 1987 baroque catalogue already mentioned.

The full inscription here is comparable to that on the initial drawing of his first riding school published in 1722 by Jeremias Wolff in Augsburg (offer for two of its splendid preparatory drawings on request).

Johann Elias Ridinger, Alexander the Great at the Hyphasis / Inscription

Besides this full official inscription there is another, not identifiable three-lined, partly crossed out inscription in Latin and with numbers ( “17 fe … Erectium …”? ) on a stone just below the head of the laying one of the two dogs.

In respect of the contrast of the outstanding subject here with Ridinger’s typical working it applies to what Thieme-Becker XVII (1924), 392/2 state in regard to Hogarth’s religious works: “not only remarkable works on a field far from the real direction of his talent, but also evidences of versatility and mobility of his mind”.

Shortly , a masterdrawing of German Baroque, And one of its most exciting. Only recently Ruth Baljöhr reminded of Hans Möhle’s remark of 1947 after which “the special performance of German Baroque lies on the field of drawing”. Added by Christoph Vitali attesting

“ still  enough  provocative  power  to  the  art  of  baroque ”

(Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Magazine January 16, 1998).

“ In the 15th century (the drawing) evolves … to an evermore greater artistic importance … Now it served not just as an auxiliary means, but stood above all arts as the immediate form of the expression of artistic ideas. Leonardo calls it not just a science, but a goddess … ”

(Leporini, Stilentwicklung der Handzeichnung, 1925, page 7).

With watermark “IV” (Jean Villedary?, paper mill prospering for 150 years in Angoulême (acc. to Churchill, 1935, p. 21 from 1668 to 1758) and then in resumption or as a branch at Hattem/Netherlands, “sometimes in conjunction with the names of Dutch paper-makers” (Emma Ruffle) where his IV/I V for instance appears as countermark to the ones of C & I HONIG (about 1724/26-1902), but generally also abused as pirated mark like others standing for first qualities, too. We find the “IV” as a contemporary mark in the graphic Ridinger œuvre in many cases, for the drawings see also the monogram version “I V” on the 1762 drawing Wild Ducks stalked by Wild Cats in Augsburg (Biedermann, [Master Drawings of German Baroque], 1987, no. 165). And Villedary’s complete mark “IV ILLEDARY” on the 1736 Good Sport drawing by the younger Georg Philipp Rugendas.

The condition still almost perfect as a whole. Smoothed cross-fold in the upper quarter only partly noticeable within the subject. Ultimately only a little disturbing the different tears in the upper margin up to 5 cm deep which all are repaired. Here and there quite fine smallest box pleats. On the back only still unimportant remnants of former mounting.

Work specifically by the way belonging to the distinguished

Group  of  the  Painterlies

running, now inscribed as here, then remained unmarked, through the œuvre since the early 1720s in nevertheless obviously only most scarce examples representing like the watercolors and gouaches

a  group  of  drawn  rarissima  on  their  own ,


“ Pen  drawing(s)  with  ink  and  sepia  (recte bistre)

brought  to  effect  masterly ”

so F. A. C. Prestel to pos. 71 of the 1879 Catalog of Marschall von Bieberstein’s Collection of Drawings with its rich Ridinger passages combined in 59 lots, among them that one to the 11th fable (Th. 775) from 1743 as the one and only of this combination.  The  technique  the  master knew to win the whole plenty  of  painterly  light  effects  and  contrasting .

As for instance George Keyes notes on Samuel van Hoogstraten’s (1627-1678) lavished John the Baptist in Prison of the Rudolf Collection (Introduction to part I of the catalog, 1977, regarding part II, 95 of the same year):

“ (He) applies washes with a virtuosity and bravura

which  add  a  wonderful  aura  to  the  subject .”

Here then added by Ridinger to that situation he, it may be repeated, realized as unique

326  at  the  Hyphasis . As  a  turning-point  of  history .

Visualized  by  the  just  25-years-old  Ridinger .

As  art-historically  supposedly  for  the  first  time  ever .

Offer no. 16,114  /  price on application

  1. Mirijam Neumeister, Das Nachtstück mit Kunstlicht in der ndl. Malerei und Graphik des 16. u. 17. Jhdts., Petersberg, Imhof, 2003, page 189 with footnote 374.

“ Thank you so much for the excellent information. We will proceed to examine the pieces with the information below in mind. You have been hugely helpful ”

(Mrs. B. P., March 24, 2003)


The  Cream  of  the  Day