Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). Cautious Prudence overcomes Malice! The fox posing as a scholar vainly tries to dupe the cock. This himself in the richly composed poultry yard with, amongst others, peacocks, turkeys, goose from Astrachan, Turkish ducks. Etching with engraving. Inscribed: J. El. Ridinger inv. del. sculp. et excud. 1743, otherwise as above in German, Latin, and French. 13¼ × 10⅛ in (33.5 × 25.8 cm).

Thienemann + Schwarz 765; Metzner-Raabe, Illustr. Fabelbuch, 1998, vol. II (Bodemann), 123.I. – Sheet 1 of the intellectually as optically exceedingly charming “Instructive Fables from the Animal Kingdom for Improvement of the Manners and especially for Instruction of the Youth” by which

“ Ridinger pursued a typical purpose of his epoch. A ‘Correction of Manners’ by the morale efficacy of art – albeit in a quite different manner – William Hogarth, almost of the same age as Ridinger, had attempted by his paintings and prints … Yet while Hogarth and Chodowiecki tried to gain recognition for their (identical) ideas by satirical sets, as A Rake’s Progress, 1735 … Ridinger built on the – especially suitable to him (that is, so he himself, ‘since the hoary times of the ancient ages’) – tradition of the animal fable ”

(Stefan Morét, Ridinger Catalog Darmstadt, 1999, p. 96).

And Ridinger himself in the explanation to present sujet:

Johann Elias Ridinger, Cautious Prudence overcomes Malice!

“ For some time the fox had to dispense with all prey for the vigilance of men and dogs were in his way. His ravenous hunger and dainty gullet raised a lust within him for winged game, and his cunning gave him means to beguile those who knew his malice, and therefore were afraid of him and careful. He intended to take advantage of their frailty, and let them know through the crow, they should appear tomorrow to listen to a eulogy in which an eloquent tongue would praise the excellence of the poultry, and its precedence to other animals, in an assemblage. They all decided indeed to appear for each hoped to hear a praise of its excellence. The fox came the other day, in disguise so that he would not make the fowl timid. After having talked a little about benefit and beauty of the domestic fowl he especially turned to the cock, he praised his gallantry, high spirit and watchfulness, and invited him to close friendship. However, even behind the disguised mask the wary cock recognized the cunning fox; he knew with whom he had to deal with and therefore betook himself in prudence … ”

Pictorially by the way Ridinger, creating a new image type, leaves behind once more tradition and field. For, so Ulrike Bodemann in Metzner-Raabe,

“ No similarities to fable illustrations known hitherto .

Enormous image sizes filled almost entirely by the representation of a central factor of the fable tale. Surroundings mostly dense, natural wood .”

And Regine Timm, ibid., vol. I, p. 171 :

“ In his large plates Ridinger … sometimes has included vegetable growth or rocks, too, dominantly in his illustrations indeed, but without decorative intention. The plants and rocks mean the thicket, the deserted loneliness of the forest, in which the strange tales among the animals happen. ”

The great intellectual relationship with the already mentioned Hogarth by the way also unmistakably expressed in Garrick’s epitaph for this:

“ Whose pictured Morals charm the Mind ,

And through the Eye correct the Heart.”

Chronologically interesting in this connection interesting that on the other side of the channel in 1726 John Gay, famous-notorious for his “Beggars Opera” (Brecht, Threepenny Opera!), had presented by his Fables “the most important achieved hitherto by English poets in this kind” (Meyers Konvers.-Lex., 4th ed., VI, 960/II).

The set consists of 20 plates, of which Johann Elias, however, has published only the first sixteen. Presumably by stylistic scruple. For with the last four, etched/engraved only by his eldest, Martin Elias, and published posthumously, he gives up the superabundance of the previous in favour of a sovereignly formulated large flat clearness with which to grapple with he obviously has shied at the end though. And where to follow him was impossible for Thienemann, too, still one hundred years later (“have less artistic value, but are nevertheless estimable, and their rarity is to be regretted”). What here, however, is regarded as a remarkably advanced artistic expressiveness. Culminating in the fascination to have created not only a new fable image, but cultivated this, once more in itself, to a new level.

Ridinger’s fable image then also a highly momentous milestone within the “basic corpus of about 900 editions of illustrated fable books” up to Chagall’s Lafontaine folio with its 100 etchings worked 200 years later as downright a glaring light for the immortality of the fable illustration.

That Ridinger had conceived his set originally substantially more comprehensively is evidenced by his preparatory drawing to the 20th fable inscribed by him “Fab 31” traded here, that to the 19th inscribed “Fabel 29.” (Weigel, 1869, no. 384), and the one known to Thienemann numbered “30”, yet remained unused like further unnumbered ones.

Without the numbering upper right, which is widely unknown, but appears later. – Figurative watermark. – Lying loosely on bluish-grey laid paper of the early 18th century watermarked SICKTE (the von Veltheim paper mill there) along with a C, open to the left, under crown with cross and orb on which it was mounted in the second half of the 19th century. – With a white platemark of about 5 mm mostly trimmed to its edge. Quite isolated minimal brown spots, small tear upper left in the white platemark.

Offer no. 12,502 | EUR 445. | export price EUR 423. (c. US$ 511.) + shipping

„ die Sendung ist unversehrt … angekommen, vielen Dank. Alle Blätter finden unsere Zustimmung, wir möchten alle erwerben. Ich habe die Rechnung bereits auf den Verwaltungsweg gegeben … “

(Herr R. G., 21. Dezember 2011)


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