The Schwerdt Copy

Last & only (?) Copy on the Market since 1939

Here & Now as Undreamt , Unparalleled Event

The Monumental Mezzotint Set Th. 1127-30

Johann Elias Ridinger (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). Hunting Scenes. Set of 4 sheet. Mezzotints by or for Johann Andreas Pfeffel I or II (Bischoffingen/Altbreisach 1674 – Augsburg 1748 and 1715 Augsburg 1768 resp.). Inscribed: Ioh(ann)(.) Elias(.) Ridinger pinx(it). / I. A. Pfeffel exc(ud[it])(.) Aug. Vind., otherwise in Latin-French-German as below. 19⅝-19⅞ × 28¾-29 in (49.9-50.5 × 73.1-73.8 cm).


C. F. G. R. Schwerdt

(1862 – 1939)

“Very rare. Brilliant impressions. Not in Gutmann’s catalogue.”

(Schwerdt III [1928], 147c & plates 215 f.)

The Schwerdt Collection
Second Portion

Sotheby & Co., 21 June 1939, lot 996

Thienemann 1127-30 (“Fine work”, 1856). – Not in Schwarz (Katalog einer Ridinger-Sammlung [Ritter von Gutmann Collection], 2 vols., 1910; vol. II with the “engravings and mezzotint[s] unbeknown to Thienemann and Stillfried”) and

missing then also in the collection and sales catalogs

so indispensable for Ridinger as

Weigel, Art Stock Catalog I, pt. I-XXVIII (the latter as additional Ridinger appendix; 1856/57), Silesian Ridinger collection, Boerner XXXIX (1885), Coppenrath (1889 & 1890), C. J. Wawra, Vienna, Katalog einer schönen Sammlung von Handzeichnungen (234 in 146 lots) und Kupferstichen Joh. El. Ridinger’s aus dem Besitze eines bekannten Sammlers (1890; auction sale), Georg Hamminger, market sweeper par excellence, Hugo Helbing Auction Sale XXXV (1895), Theodor Reich auf Biehla, Boerner LV, (1894; “none … of the collections come up for public sale in a long while … can compete anywhere near in regard of completeness (1266 sheet of c. 1600 beside c. 470 duplicates, 20 drawings) and quality … with present one”), Hugo Helbing, Arbeiten von J. E. und M. E. Ridinger, stock catalog XXXIV, 1554 items of complete sets, individual sheets and duplicates (1900), Jacques Rosenthal/Hans Koch, Johann Elias Ridinger. Radierungen – Schabkunst. Jagddarstellungen – Tiere – Landschaften – Darstellungen des täglichen Lebens (1940; listing 126, 404 items), Collection Counts Faber-Castell (1958; 106 “drawings – many sets – engravings and mezzotints. In rare completeness and quality”), Radulf Count of Castell-Rüdenhausen with especially mezzotint top trouvailles (2005).

Just as in the retrospective exhibitions accompanied by profound catalogs

of the Municipal Art Collections Augsburg to the 200th anniversary of death (1967), the 18-months touring exhibition in Poland on the eve of the 300th birthday (1997/98), the 2-months special exhibition as conclusion of the 300th birthday (1999) of the Museum Hunting Seat Kranichstein (Darmstadt) and, based on the latter two, both the one of the Emsland Museum at Clemenswerth Castle (2000, 3 months) and the Meiningen Museums at Elisabethenburg Castle (2002, 10 weeks, by which “a rather intense highlight [is] thrown at an artist, whom research …

has to rediscover in his full impact yet ”) ,

the Museum of the Teutonic Knights at Bad Mergentheim (2003, 3 months).

Quite uniform even deep velvety qualities

as with regard to the delicate mezzotint manner especially worth emphasizing and generally just for technical reasons frequently so unobtainable for the collector. For the mezzotint plates – so the expert von Sandrart 1675 – only allow for about “50 or 60 clean prints … Afterwards yet (the image) wears off soon as it does not go deep into the copper”. So Thienemann, too, stated then already 160 years ago generally:

“ The mezzotints are hardly found in the trade … anymore …

(A)ll mezzotints created by and after Joh. El. Ridinger (are) so rare that they are to be found almost only in some public splendid print rooms ”

(pages VIII & 270, spacing not in the original).

Here besides with sheet sizes of c. 20⅝-21 × 30-30¼ in with 7-20 mm white paper margin around and note “Set (of) 4” along with cipher in pencil on the back of all four sheets and additionally on the boar sheet

“ Very Fine / £ 12 17 0 ”

where ultimately it does not matter if this is the result of the 1939 sale – the estimate was £ 4 – or the subsequent retail price of one the participating dealers:

“ Schwerdt … would have preferred to sell (his collection) as a whole. But noone was prepared to pay the high price he demanded, although it may well not have exceeded his own considerable expense … What happened upon his death, is as puzzling to outsiders, as it is incomprehensible. Already five months after his death, the first of four auctions took place at Sotheby’s, which were all carried out within less than two months and fetched no more than £ 17,058 for 1,708 lots. Only professional dealers took part in this sale, and their interest was limited for such specialized material. What two people had assembled with great love and effort in almost five decades

was not sold at these auctions but practically given away …

The rest came under the hammer … in … 1946, when noone … more or less in all of Europe had sufficient founds. The proceeds were rather under than above those from before the war. In the form of 2,729 lots, the greatest and most beautiful collections of old hunting literature and prints that ever existed had been dissolved ”

(Kurt Lindner in Memories of Carl Franz Georg Richard and Mathilde Schwerdt to the reprint of Schwerdt’s catalog Hunting, Hawking, Shooting [1985], p. XXII; spacing/centering/bold type not in the original).

In the white margin around several small tears, mostly professionally done of old, of which but a few still extend barely perceivably into the subject or caption. Likewise not perceivable in the subject a certain crumpiness on the back, probably originating already from printing, and a larger water stain in the lateral part of the roe sheet. In such a way, however,

of downright extraordinarily fine preservation

as quite especially worth mentioning with these oversizes.

By image dimensions still surpassing in width by about 2 cm the imperial stag-boar pendants Th. 67/68 etched by Ridinger himself and in height only 1 cm behind, present four sheets rank among the largest in the œuvre. What by the way has to be amended to the effect that Schwerdt III, 149 records as what has to be described as practically a unique here not provable anymore since 1939 a St. Hubert after Johann Caspar Sing (Braunau/Inn 1651 – Munich 1729), with 33½ × 24⅜ in (85 × 61.8 cm) surpassing present sheets once more. Showing “only” Ridinger’s “excudit” as publisher, it should be a genuine work of his nonetheless. However, with 29¾ × 36⅛ in (75.5 × 91.8 cm) sheet size here actually the most monumental sheet of the œuvre, albeit still engraved by third party, is the early Siege and Conquest of Halicarnassus (Th. 917) from the Alexander cycle.

Here then in detail

Johann Elias Ridinger, The Shy Roe

Bienqu’un Chevreul innocent et timide
Aussi-tôt qu’ilse croit en danger il court vite;
Il n’echapera par pourtant son triste sort,
Quand un Chasseur adroit le voit et blesse à mort.

The shy roe cannot escape Death
Albeit it is quick on the feet;
For mostly it will trouble itself for nothing,
As the hunter just shoots it with his gun.

A couple roes flies along a clearing in the woods while on the right the two hunters – one kneeling – just fire.

Johann Elias Ridinger, The Wild Boar

On pour fuit par les chiens ls sanglier farouche,
Et c’est pourquoi on dresse très souvent des embouches,
Il est perdu toujours bienqu’il avec sa dent
Blesse se ennemis hardis et se defend.

By shooting and stabbing the wild boar
With hounds full of heat and fire is pursued,
Quite often his sharp tusk indeed seeks revenge,
Yet, before he knows it, he is brought to Death.

At the edge of the wood in the mountains five hounds, one at the boar’s neck, drive the tusker in full cry towards the two hunters. The one in front expecting him with the boar spear while the other aims the gun. Far right a third keeps a striated boar hound – comparable with the bear-biter Th. 1055 of the Molosser type from the Colored Animal Kingdom – forcefully back.

Johann Elias Ridinger, The Wild Bear

L’ours s’il et en danger se defend vaillamment,
Et si dans la forêt les chiens le poursuivent,
Il en est bien en rage, il les blessera à mort,
Et il’en même temps à un si triste sort.

The wild bear is pursued by the hounds,
And many a one is mangled rather badly by him;
But soon he finally has met his Death himself,
Provided the Polack has stabbed him with his spear.

In a cave the bear has seized two hounds while himself at bay or seized by four more, with one of the hunters thrusting the spear into his side. A further hunter with spear at the entrance to the cave, a third one in the background, drawing the short sword.

Johann Elias Ridinger, The Quail

La caille se cache et veut être solitaire,
Un paitre tranquille toujours est son affaire:
Mais l’Epagneul la chasse et l’oiseleur est prêt,
Pour la prendre bientôt, il luy tend son filet.

The quail indeed is used to love solitude,
And wants to be in quiet pasture with her breed;
Yet by the spaniel she is discovered soon enough,
And falls into the net, before she knows it.

In open undulated landscape the spotted pointer stands the quail half hidden in the grass. Two hunt grooms hold the net ready, behind the master with the hawk on his fist.

All this then with wonderful chiaroscuro

and embedded into eye-catching adequate landscapes .

As then already 1901 Ernst Welisch qualified Ridinger as the indisputably “most important Augsburg landscapist of (his) time … albeit he is known mainly as animal painter”.

To which of the two Pfeffel Father and Son the works have to be attributed to must be left undecided. Beside portraits and the collaboration for the Scheuchzer Bible published by the father Thieme-Becker mention landscapes for the son what might suggest his working of present sheets with their rich landscape accessories, too. For the father ornaments, arts-and-crafts designs, architectural pieces and representations of festivities are stated.

Whereas Nagler – generally not differentiating between works by father and son – notes explicitly that the former has worked “with the chisel and in mezzotint” (spacing not in the original) and values the son’s works as inferior to his father’s.

An attribution to the father as an imperial court engraver besides is also supported by the Latinized inscriptions “Iohann Elias Ridinger” and “I. A. Pfeffel” as known for Ridinger pre-eminently for earliest works still engraved by third party, and early genuine works like the animal pieces after Roos from between 1724 and 1728 or the Princes’ Pleasure of 1729. Besides, in later years Ridinger has painted barely to not at all, yet the “pinxit” (“has painted”) here refers to indeed such masters. So the just only 50-year-old master himself by letter of June 29, 1748 to Johann Georg Wille in Paris:

“ Had the great heap of my works not inhibited me … although I am even more burdened as I work on 4 tableau … for the Russian court … Have never ever thought I would take up the brush once more again yet since 2 years ago I have sent a couple squares to this court so therefore I have been approached about that so that I could not evade to accept it ”

(Décultot, Espagne & Werner [ed.], Joh. Gg. Wille, Briefwechsel, Tübingen 1999, pp. 76 f.).

The practically unique rarity documented since old

of not only the set, but the individual sheets, too, here moreover exponentiated thrice by – it shall be repeated – the

quite uniform even velvety printing quality

as reserved for but a few copies of mezzotint

at moreover almost immaculate preservation

and a provenance which vouchs for indeed this quality .

For the quality, i. e. the state of preservation, of an object was the supreme criterion for Schwerdt:

“ Schwerdt expressed and justified this guiding principle in the building of his collection in the preface to the first volume, and yet the reader will not grasp the significance of his words …

“ Today, I dare say … that with the superb prints which he acquired he appreciated the state of preservation and quality of a sheet more than the subject it portrayed … Schwerdt was a man who loved surrounding himself with

the choicest treasures from his favored field , hunting ”

(Lindner, op. cit., p. XX f.).

Here and now

thus your unique chance

to take not only one such treasure ,

but together a most beautiful , virtually unique Ridinger set

into your possession .

Flattering your walls and their beholders .

Offer no. 16,234 / price on application