Johann Elias Ridinger, Triumph of Death

Johann Elias Ridinger (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). Triumph of Death. Engraving & etching after Andrea Andreani (Andrea Mantuano & further variant forms; 1558/59 Mantua 1629) by means of the second state of the latter’s chiaroscuro woodcut from 1588 worked from a drawing by Giovanni Fortuna Fortunius (1535 Siena 1611). Inscribed: Joh. El. Ridinger excud. Aug. Vind. Sheet size 22½ × 16 in (57 × 40.6 cm).

Buijs (ed.), Un Cabinet Particulier. Les estampes de la Collection Frits Lugt, 2010, nos. 10 (Andreani; Allégorie de la mort/Memento mori; heavily restored; acquired 2005 via sponsor at EUR 25000) & 10a (Ridinger, this copy) with illustrations.

Unknown to the respective literature on Ridinger up to Wend, Ergänzungen zu den Œuvreverzeichnissen der Druckgrafik (1975), Niemeyer, Die Vanitas-Symbolik bei Joh. El. Ridinger (in L’Art Macabre, vol. 2, 2001) and the authoritative catalogs of collections, sales, and exhibitions from Weigel (1838) till the present except for the torso with formerly Count Radulf of Castell-Rüdenhausen trimmed with significant loss of image.

In its size visibly larger than Andreani’s model created in his best period or Edmé Moreau’s deviating version adduced below (20¼ × 13¾ and 20¾ × 13¼ in [51.6 × 34.9 and 52.7 × 33.5 cm] resp.), the former of which here traceable in innumerable Old Master catalogs of recent decades in but one copy of the 2nd state, increasing the estimate almost fivefold (1994; present Lugt copy). As a whole then also missing amongst the not identical seven Andreani prints each in the collections Lanna (1895, + 3 variants) & Davidsohn (1920/21).

This extreme rareness of Andreani’s print (already in 1858 Nagler, Monogramists I, 86: very rare) imparts Ridinger’s leaf an additionally high evidence.

Andreani’s generally only small œuvre today estimated at c. 70 works (AKL, 1990, and “his work is to be valued as historically and art-historically significant today” as Nagler, Monogrammisten I, 86, stated already in 1858: “… the extraordinary activity of a man … about whom was often judged too severely since Bartsch … Andreani has to be looked at from a different viewpoint …“ and in the same place per 1017: “the famous form cutter”), of which a major part falls into the time after 1600 though when he was active in Mantua as dealer and publisher only, nonetheless furnishing acquired blocks of other artists with his monogram. Yet two works from 1608 and 1610 resp. are considered as original again. Bartsch’s principle stock of 25 plus the two aforesaid later ones supposedly still current (cat. Lugt, 2010: 25).

With a death’s head mounted sculpturally in conjunction with a canopy onto an escutcheon, through the jaws of which a snake coils as here “embodiment of sin and death” (Riese, Seemann’s Lexikon der Ikonografie, 2007, p. 371), as head piece below an hourglass from which two skeleton arms reach upwards, holding a heavy rock to hurl, as documented by literature taken from Hans Holbein’s II Arms of Death of the Dance Macabre set of c. 1525. Below in a rotunda the three fates. On both sides each obelisk with Greek caption – ΜΝΗΜΟΝΕΥΕ ΑΠΟΨΥΧΕΙΝ / Remember you have to die – and variedly acting death’s head below the cross at the top and two likewise varying skulls by the pedestal. On the square stones below, supported partly by two skeletons in place of columns, ITER AD VITAM / Way to Life. Inwards the skeletons flank the Wheel of Death, of Fortune, of Lifetime placed immediately below the three fates spinning the thread of life. Joining in the hub, its eight spokes labeled on-topic, with each closing word missing the suffix mus.

Its completion is provided with Andreani — not with Ridinger! — and with the former also only in the 2nd, final state, by Death sitting athwart on the hub, holding in his right a platelet with indeed the missing suffix MUS.

Ridinger replaces in original deviation – an oversight of the necessity of the mus can be ruled out – death & platelet on the wheel hub by independent inscription: running around in two lines by the edge and as central inscription “SVM, vertas, omnib(us)q(e) idem.” SVM as at once mirror-inverted MVS.

Embedded in foliage, see on this below with Moreau, sitting on both sides of the upper part of the wheel on the left Adam, on the right, with a yearning look while her left caresses her right breast in suggestive temptation, Eve offering the apple as the foundation of death. Adam, not looking at her, extends his left to her. The hands of both meet over a death’s head.

Below the wheel and at once above an open coffin with a deceased — indifferent with Andreani & Ridinger, with Moreau, see below, supposedly rather nun than monk; Gnann, see above, believes him to be a high clergyman — with cross in the hands the winged head of Father Time, that is Cronus as “Representation of the all-devouring time” (Riese, op. cit., p. 251), flanked on both sides by two large mourners above which are set on the left the head of a harp in gloriole, on the right an owl. Before and below the coffin a large cloth inscribed TRIA SVNT VERE QUAE ME FACIVNT FLERE / There are truly three things which make me weep, flanked by symbolized winged death, two small death’s heads at the bottom of the coffin as well as religious and profane (rapier & lance point) attributes of transitoriness along with two closed folios as connecting links. Far outside on the pedestals of the two skeletons two little deaths standing, holding an oval tablet each: MEMENTO MORI & MEMORARE NOVISSIMA. The masonry by the way interspersed with signs of its transience.

In its iconographic wealth unrivalled by the core of Ridinger’s partly extremely rare, yet indeed still known mementi, the mezzotints Th.-Stillfried 1426-1431 and compositionally far from the latter two of these, the brutally realistic ones worked by Johann Jacob after Dieffenbrunner (1430 f.), present sheet possibly constitutes the closure to the group of this “fascinating Allegory of Death” (Achim Gnann, ALBERTINA Coll. Online, 2013) after Fortuna. According to a brief survey here the subject was adopted contemporarily to Andreani, too, by Matteo Florimi (Florini; 1580-1603; etching, 19½ × 13¼ in [49.4 × 33.8 cm]), likewise active at Siena, followed by Edmé Moreau’s (Châlons-sur-Marne 1597 – Reims 1660; engraving, E. Moreau fecit & ex. Cum priuilegio.; sheet size 20¾ × 13¼ in [52.7 × 33.5 cm]) “ARC TRIOMPHAL DE LA MORT”, Edmé Moreau, Arc Triomphal de la Mortwhere the latter, added rich lateral text aside, relocated essential accessories in an interesting way. So from the 2nd Andreani state Death sitting athwart in the center of the wheel himself to the top as rock-hurler in exchange for the hourglass there with its skeleton arms stemming the boulder and death’s head of the blazon, while the latter now rules the here, too, rounded center. This, however, not as wheel, rather – and this then the independent development – shaped from the branches of a complete Tree of Life, the top foliage of which being but a weakly motivated filler with Andreani/Florimi/Ridinger. And on both sides of the trunk hourglass and wheel with only seven spokes free of text and image. Dispensing with the mourners and Father Time, the dead person in full figure right below, with the head immediately below the right-hand wheel and thus reminding of St. Catherine. Laid besides without coffin on a drape falling far down as a symbol of mystery, divided by large cross with fourfold skull and sparser divine/profane attributes adjoining on both sides. The finish is a caption in four columns. – For above comparative illustration of the Moreau copy thanks goes to © Cabinet d’arts graphiques des Musées d’art et d’histoire, Genève, No d’inventaire: E 2011-0223.

Overall excellent copy with wordmark watermark (presumably WANGEN) with fine margin running around the edge of the subject. Only here and there trimmed closely to this. The general certain marks of age countered by professional restorative means, as also the (water) blotchiness on the back shows through only partially quite faintly in the subject. In the hatched margin field lower right still faintly visible reference to the artist. In short, a rarissimum without equal.

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