Johann Elias Ridinger, Letter to Johann Georg Wille 21 June 1765 (p. 1)

Late Letter Unknown to Literature
Résumé of the Œuvre & Character Sketch

Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). Autograph letter with signature to Johann Georg Wille in Paris. Augsburg June 21, 1765. Bister. 9 × 7⅜ in (230 × 186 mm). 3 pages plus address page on double leaf.


Theodor Oswald Weigel (see below)

Leipsic 1812 – Hosterwitz/Pillnitz 1881

“ Also the work Autographen-Prachtalbum
(1848-49) originated from the famous Weigel Collection”

E. + R. Kistner, Nuremberg

Hans Dedi

Basle 1918 – Fürth 2016

“ the letter was acquired from Kistner 13.4.1983 ,
it was sold by a descendent of Weigel who lives in Canada ,
along with a number of drawings and engravings by Ridinger ”

Niemeyer, Ridinger Erlebnisse 1698-2020, 2021, pp. 145-148 with 4 color ills.

Fine laid paper corresponding to the Dutch papers Ridinger used for the late illuminated sets of the Principal Colors of the Horses and the Colored Animal Kingdom with watermark Crowned Shield with Post Horn on Cord to the heraldic right and beehive pendant, below in outline “C & I Honig” (cf. Heawood 2747 f. [? Holland after 1727 and England resp.] and Catalog of Watermarks SLUB Dresden, W-DI-854 [1744; without ill.]).

Watermark Crowned Shield with Post Horn on Cord (C & I Honig)

Missing in Décultot, Espagne, Werner (ed.), Johann Georg Wille / Briefwechsel, Tübingen 1999, who from a correspondence lasting supposedly twenty years became acquainted with just four letters plus one by the sons.

Ridinger autographs generally are of great rarity .

So here beside the present one only three letters by Ridinger can be proven on the market, of which one was sold into public collection in the mid-50s (Décultot 8) while both the two others – merely regarding a payment delayed by the carrier’s changed travel route – figured in German trade in the early 1980s, one of which again in the early 2000s.

Johann Elias Ridinger, Address Johann Georg Wille, Paris

The execution on three pages with the address on the fourth in harmony with the general findings (Décultot et al., p. 14):

“ The average length of letters was four pages, with the fourth page frequently serving as envelope. ”

At the upper edge of the latter red seal with portrait bust to the left as here hitherto

Johann Elias Ridinger, Seal (portrait bust)

not documented portrait signet of Ridinger

on the address page (⅝ × ¾ in [15 × 20 mm]) with corresponding half-sized tear off at the lower edge. – Within the address faint stamp “d’ALLEMAGNE”. – Two smoothed horizontal and vertical folds of the original letter folding each. – At the white center fold of the first page top and bottom fine remains of adhesive tape, on the back of the address page at the same places traces/remains of brown tape, faintly penetrating to the white margin of p. 3.

Fluently and well legibly written – with isolated cancellations, too –

as content-rich as comprehensive late letter by Ridinger

as probably also the final one to Johann Georg Wille (Obermühle in the Bieber Valley near Gießen 1715 – Paris 1808), resident in Paris since 1736, as the “clandestine representative of German culture in France … in the center of a widely ramified communications network” (Décultot et al., op. cit., pp. 1 & 13 f.):

“ W. has kept alive the contact with the German home throughout life. Just as German travelers in Paris (beside princes and aristocrats also artists and scholars like Mengs, Gluck, Herder) not failed to visit his study, so

he entertained a German correspondence , too

… which documents his interest in German literature. With Wieland and Klopstock he exchanged his engravings against books; his esteem of Goethe was returned by the praise of the ‘Instruction Paternelle’ in the ‘Elective Affinities’ … W.s ‘Journal’ kept from 1759 till 1793 in French language … registers … correspondence, too … ”

(Thieme-Becker XXXVI [1947], 11 f.).

Ridinger’s connection with Wille dated back to at least 1746. So Ridinger’s letter of Feb. 12, 1747, in which he refers to both a letter by Wille of Jan. 3 the same year and a previous one by himself, belongs to the very earliest with Décultot et al. at all, too. And although Décultot has become acquainted with only three more from 1748, 1761 & 1762, the relationship must have been more regular and closer, as also references to previous communications indicate. And immediately after their father’s demise the sons Martin Elias and Johann Jacob write already April 12, 1767 to Wille:

“ … I know how much respect you bore the German upright Ridinger … I am obliged by your esteemed affection and goodwill so you bore for my father, to write it to you so soon … ”

(Décultot et al., op. cit., 394 f.). Wille replied in turn the April 20.

Here now first thanking for a work of Wille’s received via the Augsburg print dealer Schrapp/Schropp, Ridinger returns the favor with two drawings from his own collection, besides promising for the future supposedly one by himself. In accordance with common practice due to unreliable postal and transport conditions letter & enclosures – “These and besides a little roll from Mr. (Georg Christoph) Kilian“ – again not effected directly to Wille, but per Ridinger’s business partner in Paris, the art dealer Gilles Rosselin.

Johann Elias Ridinger, Letter to Johann Georg Wille, Paris (p. 2)

Of greater interest, especially as against Wille’s adopted country, France, however, Ridinger’s inserted

remarks on the state of the arts in Germany :

“ Certainly our worthy Germans especially the noblesse are not lacking in intelligence and will yet the genius for want of the people who might lead them to a thorough understanding of art, as the greater part of the same is lacking for they know nothing of it themselves, if I should explain

my little but thorough insight

I should have to write a whole commentary about it and then it just would have been written and little effected by it yet.

“ Thus you have made a fortunate choice

that you decided to live in a country

where in this regard there is a far greater sereneness. but there is nothing to do than that each is content with his fates providence meant for him. ”

So then also Johann Caspar Füssli (1706 Zurich 1782) writes to Wille July 12, 1772 – quoted from Décultot et al., p. 499 –

“ … and since I lost Ridinger I find no German friend who cares about the arts.

Little zeal , no talents , nothing but work for bred is the now prevailing taste . ”

Johann Elias Ridinger: I regard as my masters

Exceedingly enlightening for both Ridinger’s work and character

finally the passage on the biography written by the already mentioned friend, mezzotint artist and artist biographer, Georg Christoph Kilian (1709 Augsburg 1781), sent by copy to Wille without Ridinger’s knowledge and consent:

“ by mention of Mr. Kilian as my good friend I have to complain in confidence about him in something as he has sent you my circumstances as I think in quite good faith but without my knowledge, however, in several things when I read it over found it too much undue so I ask you not to let it out of your hands without my correction, until the undue has been sorted out by me this favor I kindly ask from you as my best and true friend, and you will do by this a particular favor if you leave it untouched in secrecy. ”

So then in the margin of a further copy of this biography of Ridinger, 1830 passed with the estate of drawings into the possession of J. A. G. Weigel in Leipsic, Ridinger’s annotation of November 1764, obeyed, however, only partially by his sons when printing it in the preamble to the Colored Animal Kingdom

“ this passage may be left out entirely , for it is far too high for me .”

Accordingly then continuing in present letter to Wille, at the same time naming the (animal) painters François Desportes, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Frans Snyders, Jan Fyt and Carl Ruthart as beside Adam Frans van der Meulen, Parrocel and further more as his paragons:

“ Mister Kilian has put me above men whose merits are profoundly greater than mine at least I ask you earnestly to leave the passage out | vz. Where he writes _ An artist’s which Italy France and Germany _ _ _ in such a manner have not to show |

had these birds not flown from the nest against my will and too soon for me

I not only would have smothered them in the nest but entirely exterminated

this however I say only into my friend’s ear, Mister Kilian indeed meant well for me but did not consider that he would raise hate against me I know of your compatriots a Desporte Parocel ourdÿ vander Meulen, a Fr: Scheiers, Füt Ruthart etc: still many more who all I regard as my masters and this is not said no I am convinced of it and ask that you may grant my request. ”

Characteristic for Ridinger’s self-conception as artist

the mention of exclusively painters as his paragons, as he then writes to Wille already 18 years before:

“ … so it will give me great pleasure to paint if my humble work is considered only slightly well by those spirited minds of the Frenchmen, represent my place and point out to them that I work not as a virtuoso in engraving

but as a painter …

I regret that I could not yet get in copper where I have come to in drawing But I try to do what I do with painterish reason … ”

(February 12, 1747, cited from Décultot et al., op. cit., p. 72).

Ridinger’s development as engraver and etcher Wolf Stubbe had worked out already 1966 by a comparison of the control of light as means of structuring and dramatization in sheets from the early Princes’ Hunting Pleasure (1729) and i. a. the Par Force Hunt of the Stag from the 1750s and at the same time pointed out the varied treatment of the smooth coat of the red deer and the shaggy fur of a bear, but of rock formations, too. That such parts frequently reveal at first glance original, study or even copy shall be mentioned in passing only

for Ridinger thinking as a painter also and particularly in copper .

More recently Ellen Spickernagel expanded this aspect by a consideration of the structuring of the landscape – “before dramatically staged landscape settings in the manner of the Netherlanders of the 17th century”, so also U. Heise 2017 in Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon – and unmistakably traces the engraver and etcher Ridinger back to the painter and especially his paragons:

“ … more sophisticated compositions in the refined technique of etching with engraving by which a more nuanced representation of light, motion and materiality could be accomplished. He combined with this

the adoption of the Netherlandish landscape art of the 17th century …

It provided in the style of realism manifold types of landscapes … With Jan Breughel I, Gillis van Coninxloo (III), Abraham Govaerts and many other painters the thick, dusky forest interiors were given ”

And although referring exclusively to the engraver and etcher Ridinger, finally it shall be reminded of Wolf Stubbe’s remark in regard of a sheet of the Par Force Hunt of the Stag:

“ It takes very much artistic intelligence

to achieve this as delicate as animating light effect. By it, if he knows to handle it, the engraver possesses a decisive means for one of the most essential effects the art of engraving can achieve anyway ”

(Wolf Stubbe, Johann Elias Ridinger, Hamburg/Berlin 1966, p. 16).

Quite in unison with his artistic self-conception then also the title sheets to the most varied sets, starting with the New Animal Sketch Book and the Various Representations of Some Figures from Antiquity useful for History of 1728 and the Princes’ Hunting Pleasure of 1729 as the earliest published by himself, too, in which he, just as with the Design of Several Animals (1738-40), the Representation of the Fair Game with their added Tracks and Traces (1740), the fables of 1744, the Design of Several Horses (and Mules) (1754/5), states

Johann Elias Ridinger , Painter in Augspurg .

Only with the appointment as Protestant director of the academy in 1759 the addition “and engraver” appears with the further amendment of “also Director of the Augsburg Academy”. So with the Representation and Description of those Trained and War Horses (1760) and the Fair Game chased by the Various Kinds of Hounds of the following year as the Roman and Greek War Folks, too, and continued by the sons in the posthumous title sheets to the Most Wondrous Deer and other Particular Animals and the first part of the colored Animal Kingdom. Just as then Johann Jacob, too, inscribed the 1767 posthumous late portrait of the father at the drawing table by the window of the study as the most important one among the portraits with “Jean Elie Ridinger Peintre et Graveur et Directeur de l’Académie d’Augsbourg”.

Jean Elie Ridinger Peintre et Graveur et Directeur de l’Académie d’Augsbourg
»Peintre et Graveur et Directeur de l’Académie d’Augsbourg«: the dedication cartouche of the master’s most important portrait

Classifiable in such a manner only as a market event extraordinaire , present

late letter unbeknown to literature

thus also a look back at more than 50 years of artistic work and downright

résumé of the œuvre & character sketch at once:

“ (T)he artistic overall appearance of Ridinger actually (has) nothing of an ‘Augsburg’ artist … it (is) a given for Ridinger that (his work) shall be published in sets, that it might be educational, and that the intended … should be brought into the beholder’s reflecting conscience emphatically. In these traits, not affecting his actual pictorial inventions, Ridinger is Augsburger, apart from that his graphical works hardly have anything in common with the decorative-ornamental engravings from the shops of the neighborhood … that he has been an animal designer sui generis

whose – indeed unique – manner

has been accomplished by no other artist even remotely ”

so two hundred years later Wolf Stubbe, devoted equally to 18th and 20th century, as former director of Kunsthalle Hamburg (op. cit., pp. 10, 11, 13). And by this confirming what Kilian already wrote in his biography:

“ Who has beheld these (works) with but fleeting eyes certainly cannot help but attribute to him the name of a great artist, an artist as such Italy, France and Germany as well as the Netherlands

in this his quite own subject of animal horse and hunting pieces

as of yet could not show .”

In the manuscript as the otherwise generally tightened print in the Neue Bibliothek … der freyen Künste still at Ridinger’s lifetime Kilian amends his passage rebuked – see above – by the master as following:

“ (T)he fallacious conclusion therefore ceases in Mister Riedinger’s person, too, if one thinks that no artist could become great if he had not studied in Italy, and one can justly apply on him what our excellent compatriot in Paris, Mister Wille, writes in his letter to Mister Fuißli in Zurich: ‘I admire you more as you have not seen her (Italy), and have become so great, as I would admire you if you had seen her, and had become greater; the difficulties which you met in your homeland outweigh the difficulties of the Roman painters infinitely.’ ”

(Neue Bibliothek der schönen Wissenschaften und der freyen Künste, II, 1, Leipsic 1766, p. 142).

Johann Elias Ridinger, Letter to Johann Georg Wille, Paris (p. 3)

And in unison with his corresponding utterance and request to Wille in present letter as the above-quoted margin note to the previous passage Ridinger added in the cover note to the reviewed manuscript of Kilian’s biography November 12, 1764:

“ Worthiest Friend, Honest Man. I am beyond the mentioned guile of the so-called false and blind fortune, and I wish that you might not touch this matter at all, it is with me as with the Barzillai, ‘What is it that I have to live yet?’ and I am worried it might give you bother and me envy, but grant me my anxiety. You take this description as responsibility on yourself! See how you answer for it! ”

Hence confirming in everything Kilian’s characterization adopted by the sons, too,

“ Although his name not boasts with many honorific titles ,

for which he never strove ”

quite in respect of the but two honorific offices he held in late years only – 1757 assessor at the Protestant marriage court, 1759 director of the municipal academy – too. As then also Johann Caspar Füssli (1706 Zurich 1782) complained towards Wille by letter of December 1, 1758:

“ I go with my thoughts into the night of German minds, but my eye is helpless … and how could it be as even

my too unambitious friends Ridinger

and Haide, do not reply anymore to escape my bombardment … ”

(Décultot et al., op. cit., pp. 185 f.).

Offer no. 16,295 | price on application

Johann Elias Ridinger, Signature
Augspurg 21 Junÿ 1765

— quotation bolding , centering , spacing mostly not in the original —

  1. “… book dealer and bibliophile in Leipsic … youngest son of Johann August (Gottlob) W. … took over his father’s business (established 1797) in 1839 and continued it under the name ‘T. O. Weigel’ … Under his direction the company rose to international reputation … With the same enthusiasm he increased the collections inherited from his father by valuable stocks … Together with Ad. Zestermann he made the treasures of this library known by the monumental two-volume work: ‘Die Anfänge der Druckerkunst in Bild und Schrift’. Also the work ‘Autographen-Prachtalbum’ …” (Wilhelm Olbrich in Löffler-Kirchner, Lexikon des Gesamten Buchwesens, III [1937], 561). – In such a way present letter should date back to his prior possession. That it nonetheless is not mentioned indeed by Th. (Leben und Wirken des … Johann Elias Ridinger, Leipsic, Rudolph Weigel, 1856) might have its cause in that only after printing it came into Weigel’s possession, more generally, however, that it was the brother Rudolph W. (1804-1867, J. A. G. W.’s eldest, whose immense Ridinger stock of especially drawings acquired 1830 from Ridinger’s estate of drawings passed on to him, see Th., p. 273) who was Th.’s source. And a lack of depth regarding research would turn out, too, by Th.’s ignorance of the 444 original Ridinger copper printing plates of the so-called Thieme-Becker block, which at just his time were brought together in Leipsic by another publisher and of which he nonetheless explicitly marks innumerable as lost in his catalog raisonné. – Two years after Rudolph’s demise brother Theodor Oswald published the father’s here likewise frequently quoted Catalog einer Sammlung von Original-Handzeichnungen … gegründet und hinterlassen von J. A. G. Weigel, whose Ridinger appendix at least had passed on to Rudolph.
  2. So Hans Dedi in his inventory record then conveyed to here in copy with transcription.
  3. As vol. 44 / Frühe Neuzeit, of Studien und Dokumente zur deutschen Literatur und Kultur im europäischen Kontext.
  4. Georg Christoph Kilian (1709 Augsburg 1781), mezzotint artist, artist biographer, publisher, and collector. Author of the only contemporary anonymous manuscript notes on R.’s life from 1764 An edited and abbreviated version marked „K.“ was published in Neue Bibliothek der schönen Wissenschaften und der freyen Künste (Leipsic, Dyck, 1766, col. II/1, pp. 137-145), in which the author describes himself as a pupil of R.’s (“as then the author of this communication himself was so fortunate to enjoy his instruction for one winter”, p. 142). Albeit not decoded by Th., by reference to his “large collections of French, Netherlandish, Italian, and German engravings” for confirmation of his judgement, the author nonetheless reveals himself in the unabridged version continued past R.’s demise as printed by Ridinger’s sons in the preamble – reprinted by Th. – to their father’s Colored Animal Kingdom published by them. See on this in detail Th., in particular pp. I f. & XVI. – Cf. Th.-B. XX [1927], 293 f., too.
  5. Here currently available in the absolutely exceptional copy of the collections of an anonymous after 1856 (“… a complete copy in such preservation supposedly went on sale never before …”), Dr. Alfred Lucian Ritter von Pfeiffer (1858-1913; “Splendid copy … In this completeness and preservation of utmost rarity”, so Boerner 1914), Ethel Mary von Weinberg, née Villers Forbes of the House of the Earls of Granard (1866-1937), Richard Baron von Szilvinyi (1899-1966), Liselotte Baroness von Szilvinyi, née von Schnitzler (1910-2008) per ref. no. 16,287.
  6. François Desportes (Champigneulles, Haute-Marne, 1661 – Paris 1743). Painter. Cf. AKL XXVI [2000], 417.
  7. Parrocel, surely Charles (1688 Paris 1752). History and especially battle painter, etcher with respect to his “amazingly true depiction of the horse” (Thieme-Becker XXVI [1932], 258). Cf. AKL XCIV [2016], 358 f.
  8. Jean-Baptiste Oudry (Paris 1686 – Beauvais 1755). Etcher, painter. Cf. AKL XCIV [2016], 40 ff.
  9. Adam Frans van der Meulen (Brussels 1632 – Paris 1690). Battle painter, genre painter, landscape painter. Cf. AKL LXXXIX [2015], 246 f.
  10. Frans Snyders (1579 Antwerp 1657). Animal painter, still life painter. Cf. Th.-B. XXXI [1937], 190.
  11. Jan Fyt (1611 Antwerp 1661). Painter, etcher. Cf. Th.-B. XII [1916], 612.
  12. Carl Borromäus Andreas Ruthart (Danzig 1630 [?] – L’Aquila [after] 1703). Painter, animal painter, etcher. Cf. Th.-B. XXIX [1935], 239.
  13. Nevertheless already the other year he has to confess to Wille by letter of June 29 “Have never thought that I would take the brush once more again”, where it was about a follow-up order by Czarina Elizaveta Petrovna, Peter the Great’s daughter, which he could not well decline considering the previous one. Just to think about he could afford at the age of 50 after all! See Décultot et al., op. cit., pp. 76 f. And indeed in this regard Kilian, too, in 1764: “Of his paintings I will not mention anything but that over time they should become very rare and precious for he … had not worked that many of the same, since several years, however, none at all.”
  14. Ellen Spickernagel, Dem Auge auf die Sprünge helfen. Jagdbare Tiere und Jagden bei Johann Elias Ridinger (1698-1767), in Annette Bühler-Dietrich, Michael Weingarten (ed.), Topos Tier: Neue Gestaltungen des Tier-Mensch-Verhältnisses, Bielefeld 2015, p. 111.
  15. Vol. 98 (2017), pp. 472 f.
  16. So also Nicolaes de Bruyn’s St. Hubert from 1614 in recourse to Coninxloo’s important Wooded Landscape with Hunters of 1598 (Plietzsch 14) as apparently hitherto missed. Here available with Joannes Meyssen’s address and his Hubert-bursting dedication for Frederik de Marselaer, as added here only.
  17. Available i. a. in R.’s AUTHOR’S COPY with corrections specific to the copy as well as in SOLANDER BOX with original copper printing plate of the otter as OTTER COPY.
  18. Available in solander box as LE GRAND EXEMPLAIRE with the original copper printing plate of the title sheet.
  19. Nagler, Monogrammisten, II (1860), 1740: “One of the greatest artists of his time.” And Alojzy Oborny in the noble Polish-German exhibition catalog to the 1997/98 18-month Polish Ridinger touring exhibition: “… one of the most excellent German XVIII century graphic artists … This artist was fairly underestimated in the past, but his rank in art history rises higher and higher in time.”
  20. On the hereditary Grant of Arms bestowed 1746 as honorific commendation see issue 33 of the series of papers.
  21. Johann Jacob Haid (Kleineislingen 1704 – Augsburg 1767), “Father of Joh. Elias H. … learned painting with J. El. Ridinger … yet soon recognized his skill for mezzotint and turned to this. Stayed with Ridinger still some years … Supposedly he is the Augsburg painter Haid by whom the two brothers Daniel Nicolaus and Gottfried Chodowiecki were instructed in enamel painting about 1745. Founded a big publishing house … H. is foremost known by his portrait engravings” (Thieme-Becker XV [1922], 481). – See his “Programmatic (Ridinger) mezzotint” (Gode Krämer) after Joh. Gg. Bergmüller, the latter in turn taking recourse to Haid’s corresponding own oil version (Art Collections Augsburg, inv. no. 8610), per ref. nos. 15,185 & 16,272 with exceptionally fine provenance history close to the immortal Beethoven.

1959 · decades-long ridinger expertise · 2022