The Revolt of the Masses
When European Values
still were worth an Educational Trip
Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). The Vengeance of a Lowly on a Mighty is pernicious (or, so in the new edition of 1825, Powerless rage destroys itself). Travelling through Europe on an educational trip an elephant – for the Indian poets
“ symbol of wisdom and sympathy …
and eight elephants support the universe ”
(Meyer’s Convers.-Lex., 4th ed., V, 510/II) – inadvertently hurt a pert little fox
whereupon its whole tribe considered to punish the colossus .
But shortly “the army was pulverized”.
Etching + engraving. (1744.) Inscribed: J. E. Ridinger inv. sculp. et excud., otherwise as above in German, French, and Latin. 13¼ × 9⅞ in (33.6 × 25.1 cm).
Thienemann + Schwarz 771; Metzner-Raabe, Illustr. Fabelbuch, 1998, vol. II (Bodemann), 123.I. – Sheet 7 of the intellectually as optically exceedingly charming “Instructive Fables from the Animal Kingdom for Improvement of the Manners
and especially for the Instruction of the Youth ”
“ 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 specially hereto Ridinger himself :
“ The elephant did a travel to Europe to become acquainted with the traditions there … and had the misfortune to tread off the tail of a young fox who was, by forwardness to view him, coming too near to him. The fox … set up a great shout and called to his folks to revenge this shame and insult, which this (Non-European) has done to him. All came to terms about this and considered how they could attack so that their revenge would be carried out. It did not lack of artfulness and rage, but, nevertheless, it went off badly. Some the elephant trampled to death, others he took up with his trunk
( “… in the trunk they have an almost incredible power …
by which they can deal dreadful strokes …” )
and threw them into the height … This went so to heart of an old fox that he began to shout at the top of his voice: Oh tyrannical manifestation! No, the elephant said,
on such a revenge such a deserts follows .”
Corresponding also with the Chinese wisdom “If the domination of the great becomes oppressive time has come to hold still, and the direct way would not be the shortest one.”
Pictorially by the way Ridinger, creating a new image type, leaving 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 pre-paratory 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.
The watercolored original pen drawing in the same direction from the Weigel sale (not in the 1869 catalog of the bequeathed drawings), figuring as “Splendid, completely executed watercolor” per lot 110 on the 1890 Ridinger sale at Wawra in Vienna, now in a Bavarian Ridinger collection. That drawing in reverse used for the transfer on the copper-plate was on the market in the 1980s. And a executed study of the elephant in the 1990s in America.
Splendid early impression . – Without the numbering above right unknown in general, but appearing later. – Lying loosely on bluish-grey paper of the early 18th century watermarked SICKTE along with a C, open to the left, under a crown of a prince (Von Veltheim paper mill at Sickte, Lower Saxony) on which it was mounted in the second half of the 19th century. – Above mostly trimmed on platemark, otherwise throughout with a little margin additionally to the fine white platemark itself. – Brown stipples in the left ear of the elephant.
Offer no. 12,505 / EUR 649. / export price EUR 617. (c. US$ 746.) + shipping
More plates from the Fables set :
„ heute kam ich wieder nach Hause und fand die Bilder vor. Sie sind wohlbehalten angekommen und in einem guten Zustand … Vielen Dank für Ihre Mühe “
(Frau E. K., 24. Juni 2002)