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Johann Elias Ridinger, Preliminary Search with the Leaders
The Preliminary Search with the Leaders for the Par Force Hunt! (Th. 49)

Johann Elias Ridinger (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). The Par force Hunt of the Stag and Its Whole Proceedings with Extensive Description. (Augsburg, author’s edition, 1756.) Four-part set of

16 sheet in etching with engraving

(c. 12¼-12⅜ × 18¾-19⅛ in [31-31.5 × 47.5-48.5 cm]).

Thienemann & Schwarz 49-64; LeBlanc 112-127; Art Stock Catalog Weigel 16545 (“old now scarcely occurring impressions”, 1847!) & pt. XXVIII (1857), Ridinger 4 A (of C); catalog Baron von Friesen (1847), 1035 (“very rare set”); Helbing XXXIV (Ridinger, 1900), 141 (“New impressions”, supposedly still after Weigel 4 C); Halle LXVIII (1928), 322 (only 15 sheet, only 5 of which wide-margined); Schwerdt III (1928), 134 (“A fine set, of historical value, which is much sought after”); Thiébaud (1934) 783:

« Une des plus belles suites de Ridinger »

Cat. Jeanson (1987), 490; Ridinger catalog Kielce (1997), 15-26 with 4 illustrations (only 12 ll.); Solms-Laubach, Die schönsten Jagdbilder aus europäischen Sammlungen, 1961, pp. 118 f. & double full-page illustration

( “Johann Elias Ridinger is the only painter in this book who deserves the designation hunting painter … He usually created whole sets which treat all kinds of the hunt and game exhaustively. The always attached texts (in German) explicate the depicted with scientific accuracy …” );

Stubbe, Joh. El. Ridinger, 1966, pp. 15 ff. with 2 illustrations

“ impressive evidence of Ridinger’s mature art of engraving! ”

Das Buch der Jagd, 1977, pp. 52 ff. with 7 illustrations; Blüchel, Die Jagd, 1996, I, pp. 135 f. with 8 ills.

The in every aspect splendid copy

on unfolded laid paper (no centerfold!) with wide margins of c. 3½-5⅛ (8,9-13) laterally and 3½-4⅜ in (8.9-11.2 cm) top/bottom resp., resulting in a sheet size of c. 19⅞-20¼ × 27¼-28⅜ in (50.5-51.5 × 69.2-72 cm). Irrespective of clearly legible watermarks presumably not the WANGEN mark of the Loth dynasty on the Lotten Mill at Nieder-Wangen on the Argen as generally preferred by Ridinger. The countermark indifferent.

Having been embedded, however – see the remaining guards on the left edge previous Œuvres de Ridinger binding – in others of their kind. Right up to

the superior printing quality fully playing off its chiaroscuro,

freshness and, indeed, unfolded state!

Johann Elias Ridinger, The Par Force Horses are lead upon the Rendezvous
The Par Force Horses are lead upon the Rendezvous (Th. 51)

The concise image-text instruction

with its 6-10-line captions with all the French specialist terms

“ … besides provides the pleasant satisfaction

which fine information developed from the ground up can give .

A life full of hunting experiences ,

a knowledge acquired in many years of extremely alert attention to the causes and considerations which lead to the individual provisions and customs of the hunt, enabled the artist to explain all kinds of the hunt

not only according to their execution ,

but above all from their reasons .

This happens … in all shortness … the scarce space below the images suffices for intensive, yet easily intelligible elucidations in engraved writing ”

(Stubbe, op. cit., p. 30).

The time of creation of the set documented by dates in drawings between 1746 & 1753 and two dates of 1756 in the plates. For the former see Thienemann, op. cit., p. 274, folio I,b; (25 sheet, cf. Weigel, Catalog einer Sammlung von Original-Handzeichnungen, Leipsic 1869, Ridinger appendix, 448-475).

The common title of the set supposedly based on Thienemann, for the monogrammed, yet not engraved sepia drawing Weigel 449 conclusively consulted in this regard by him (9 × 14⅝ in [230 × 370 mm]; Wawra 89 with illustration p. 5; DJM 5209, its reproduction on an invitation for Oct. 28, 1992 incomplete on the right part of the image) at least on the front without inscription.

“ A polyhistor of the hunt not only in the meaning of hunting-historical knowledge, comprehensively as with the history of the hunt Ridinger wants to present with the treatment of the subject hunting all at once all its then outer and inner meaning.From the earliest this is his deliberate program:‘Complete and thorough Representations … of the Noble Hunt’ therefore the title of his first series of hunting prints published 1729 starts (Princes’ Hunting Pleasure, Th. 13-48).

Johann Elias Ridinger, Preliminary Search with the Leaders (detail)
The Preliminary Search with the Leaders for the Par Force Hunt! Detail from Th. 49.

“ In the opinion of the author plenty belongs to the completeness and thoroughness (of that) set. It has to elucidate arms and devices, as they are necessary for the hunt ‘according to each animal’s kind’, has to describe their use, and all this factual information has to be based on descriptions of well-experienced huntsmen. Yet the set(s) of print(s) also shall explain clearly the language of the hunter, and it is evident that each animal and each procedure has to be drawn faithfully from life. The artist is foremost interested in the benefit ‘so in specie young gentlemen draw upon it’, and to take this assistance of the expert young talents thoroughly into account, the depictions are combined with a description as short and as concise as possible which deliberately distinguish themselves from rambling (and therefore presumably hard to understand) elucidations of older books ”

(Wolf Stubbe, op. cit., p. 8, bold type not in the original).

Johann Elias Ridinger, Arrival of the Prince (detail)

“ … the setting up and design of the hunt (however)

belonged to the artistic tasks of the 18th century ”

So in a 1991 exhibition catalog of Hamburger Kunsthalle commenting a Ridinger exhibit.

The hunt in the age of Ridinger thus art-historically no longer understood separately on its own, separate thus also not Ridinger himself as its mere protagonist, but seen as standing in closest context with the century as a whole. With all the challenge for research which inevitably results from this. And also results from it when at the same place

“ Ridinger’s engraved , etched , and mezzotint work

is compared as peer

to the major graphic works of the 18th century … ”

“ As Piranesi addressed those interested in the ancient, Hogarth the civic common sense by their works (likewise) annotated by engraved explications, Ridinger doubtless had the interest of the courts and the nobility on his side ”

Here then

the complete course of a classic par force hunt ,

the inventor of which according to Döbel “shall be” Saint Hubert and, belonging

“ to the most wanted works of our master ”

… after the abolition of the par force hunt even having obtained a historical value” (Th.). And for Gaston III/Phebus the latter was downright the noblest and most exciting kind of the hunt. So in his Le Livre de Chasse, written 1387/89 for Philip the Bold and in the original now lost, all in one formidable natural history and most beautiful hunting book of the West.

“ Basically (with par force hunting) an old kind of hunting is picked up again, as had been practiced already in antiquity and during the Middle Ages before the existence of firearms, that is the hunt for the stag on horseback and only by the support of a strong pack of hounds. Also in par force hunting the weapon is relevant only in the final act of the hunt when the exhausted animal, held at bay by the hounds, is killed. Yet while with the old hunt the hounds only hunted on sight and gave up once they lost sight of the game, the par force hounds also have to be able to follow the scent of the hunted animal … On the fast pursuit of the stag by the pack and the mounted hunters, on its distinction from the other game, and on the recovering of the lost scent excitement and purport of this hunt were based … The par force hunt required excellent huntsmen … who had to be at the peak of hunting training of their time, know the hunt and ‘correct signs’ of the stag, command their horse, work with the hounds, and sound the bugle … At the same time the cultivation of par force hunting at the princely courts carried an increase of the veneration of Saint Hubert ”

(Gisela Siebert, Kranichstein, 1969, pp. 55 f. & 64).

Ridinger’s “Par Force Hunt of the Stag”

thus equally artistic event and triumph of the mature years:

“ Naturalness and liveliness, which are especially praised by the contemporaries in Ridinger’s prints, rest upon many factors, about which the artist – as with that of the treatment of light – got clear about only in the course of his development, or which he knew to develop fully only in his mature period. Equally important for the liveliness of the aspect as the use of the effects of light the composition of the depiction, for if he were to rely merely on linear components, on contours and the flow of internal lines, the engraving would hardly come off to a striking impact. Especially the inclusion of light in the structure of the overall design, which makes the arrangement of the composition highly visible by bright and dark grounds, imparts its dynamic strength upon a graphical composition only in the interaction with the linear movements ”

So Stubbe, op. cit., p. 16, in i. a. juxtaposition of such thematic parallels as the early (upright) Confirmation of the Noble Stag with the Leader (Th. 16) of the Princes’ Hunting Pleasure from 1729 and the late Hunted Stag (Th. 56):

Johann Elias Ridinger, The Selected Stag is raised with the Lancer Hound
The Selected Stag is raised with the Lancer Hound! (Th. 56)

“ Always viewed with regard to the early and the mature achievement, one will find how little the early sheet has of unifying atmosphere, it appears torn. By contrast in the later horizontal a richly differentiated, albeit even gloom of the forest joins all details. Two light spaces clearly separated by the central two-trunk tree light the homogenous forest shade. Now again the early sheet with ‘Confirmation’ of the stag. In it the distribution of light is detailed. The shadows behind the search hand on the left without any articulation, instead of the differentiated gloom adumbrating forest depths a web of lines, which appears immediately behind the trees on the edge of the forest, prevents our sight like a curtain from penetrating the depth ” (p. 15).

Only this landscape development with the light as one pivotal aspect had Ridinger become the

indisputably “most eminent Augsburg landscapist

of this period” as whom Ernst Welisch recognized him a hundred years ago, “although he is primarily known as animal painter” (Beiträge zur Geschichte der Augsburger Maler im 18. Jhdt., 1901, pp. 91 ff.). And as which he presents himself in present Par Force Hunt so masterfully.

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