The False “Cellist” of Literature –
A True Watteau !
And in this Rich Version an Almost-Unicum !
Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). The Gamba Player (Viola da gamba). The collector Bougi (or the big-bellied friend Nicolas Vleughels?) with hat with plume below raised rich drapery, playing a viole de gambe with 7 chords and 7 ribs. Three quarter figure, sitting frontally to the left, the bowing right laid upon brickwork while to the right the balustrade of a terrace follows, opening the vista of for their part significantly seven cypresses. From their center a fountain shoots up. Mezzotint based on a detail by Antoine Watteau (Valenciennes 1684 – Nogent-sur-Marne 1721). After 1734. Inscribed: I. El. Ridinger excud. A. V. 19⅛ × 13⅞ in (48.5 × 35.1 cm).
In this rich version
Schwarz 1460 + plate II, XIX (erroneously as “The Cellist”).
Not in Thienemann (1856) + Stillfried (1876) and with the exception of Baron Gutmann (Schwarz, 1910) here not provable elsewhere. At which the identity of the copies of the collections Reich auf Biehla 317 ( “Very rare”, 1894 ! ) + Hamminger 1890 ( “Extremely rare sheet”, 1895 ! ) must remain undecided in the absence of a detailed description.
To be found at best (so with Rosenthal 1940, correctly as viola, Counts Faber-Castell 1958 + K&F 1979) the very much simpler version Schwarz 1459, plate II, XVIII, concentrated exclusively on the player set into a frame with caption, whose features up to the ear are worked perceptibly slightly less expressive and detailed, and this quite analogously to hat and plume, but also to the button tape of the jacket.
Yet unknown to all though
the reference to Watteau to whom the richer version here is inevitably closer. Preserved in just one copy (Saint-Omer), Ridinger borrowed the sujet from Watteau’s “Bucolic Concert”, so the title of the reverse engraving Benoit II Audran worked for the “Recueil Jullienne” in 1734, which should have served Ridinger, just as other sheets of the “Recueil”, as model, not without having restored the correct direction for his purpose: M. Bougi bows with his right!
Assumed for 1716/17 Watteau’s painting – see its Audran representations in the Watteau Catalogue Berlin, 1984, pp. 33, 156, 351 and, as detail of Bougi, 551 and at Pierre Rosenberg + L. A. Prat, Antoine Watteau / Catalogue raisonné des dessins, 1996, pp. 542/43 – assembles in front of a park scenery with cypresses a party making music and singing with the gamba player shown in full figure as its centre. That this is the collector Bougi from Watteau’s circle of friends was handed down by the art dealer Mariette of whom by the way it was contested if he himself was also acquainted with Watteau. But in regard of Bougi there is uncertainty, too, as there are three possible. Who of these might have played an instrument? Otherwise
“ the persons which surround (Bougi) belong to his family as in the portrait by Sirois in the ‘Family Concert’ … in London … The place, one of the parks, the painter loved that much … ”
(see on this op. cit. pp. 33 f. + 43).
Contrary to this the Brunswick exhibition catalog (2005) reminds of the lineaments of the big-bellied friend Nicolas Vleughels.
Ridinger now focusses the player indeed, but at the same time, and this contrary to Schwarz 1459, he gives his supposed ambience, also important for Watteau, back to him by rich drapery and park view. For his “Huntress” Th. 1110 Ridinger by the way used a park background equally determined by significantly upshooting cypresses.
With caption in German-Latin :
Empty thoughts banished with empty sound .
The empty sound of the violin drives away empty whims ,
O could this fill the empty head often .
Beyond that above the tracing back of this sujet gives additional clearness on quite a different field. That is about Ridinger’s habit of inscription. Since beginning with Thienemann his, as here, too, simple “excudit” is commonly regarded as just the publisher’s address though it can, in the sense of Langenscheidt, in fact include the inventor/sculptor as additionally “has engraved or worked it”.
After already his famous “Self-Portrait in the Forest”, Th. XIX, 1 – inscribed perhaps only erroneously by Martin Elias on occasion of his transfer to the plate with “ipse inv:” – , could be traced back here to Watteau’s double portrait with Jullienne (op. cit. pp. 28 + 362), and a more complex rendering of the sheet Stillfried/Schwarz 1397 after Watteau inscribed with the “excudit” only could be proven (The Productive Penetration: Watteau in Ridinger’s Work), and also for Schwarz 1458 + 1471 an inspiration by the same is quite obvious or evident, resp., it just seems logical that Ridinger was his own spiritus rector in these cases – and thus in others, too. With the “ipse” invenit of the self-portrait as just only additional confirmation that he occupied himself intensively with Watteau. Doubtless via the “Recueil Jullienne”.
Mounted by old at the corners on especially wide-margined buff laid paper which is slightly browned at three outer margins. – At top with tiny paper margin throughout, otherwise both with such one as trimmed to platemark. In the left knee quite minimal trace of scratching.
The exceptionally rare almost unique sheet
in the marvelous copy in regard of printing and conservation
of a cultivated collection of perfectly bright chiaroscuro in all parts. And in such a manner of quite extraordinary rarity not only on the market as quoted above, but in general, too. Already in 1675 the expert von Sandrart numbered “clean prints” of the velvety mezzotint manner at only c. “50 or 60” (!). “Soon after (the picture) grinds off for it not goes deeply into the copper.” Correspondingly Thienemann in 1856 :
“ The mezzotints are almost not to be acquired on the market anymore …
and the by far largest part (of them) …
(I have) only found (in the printroom) at Dresden. ”
Not even there then Watteau’s Gamba Player
in its two versions, which subsequently remained unknown to Count Stillfried 20 years later, too! And the one here as the richer one of the two is here provable only in Baron Gutmann’s copy. As
a bewitching-charming sheet
and , once again ,
one of the most beautiful Ridingeriana .
Offer no. 28,403 / price on application
“ Stumbled upon your excellent website while researching Ludwig Beckmann, and must say that I was most impressed. In any case, since you are the closest I know to an authority on antique German books and prints I am wondering if you could help me pinpoint the origin of a piece I have in my dachshund collection … ”
(Mr. & Mrs. J. L., August 14, 2008)