Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). The Mindless Age becomes Contemptuous by Childish Expression. Elected for his large beard by the animals as their representative the billy-goat behaves himself so foppish over this that he “provokes partly guffaw, partly annoyance. This the artist shows excellently. The badger is rolling with laughter, the stag, the horse, the fox laugh scornfully, the tiger, the striped hyena, and the lynx in earnest become aware of the foolishness of their choice and revoke it. The monkey though points his fingers at him” (Th.). Etching with engraving. (1744.) Inscribed: J. El. Ridinger inv. et fec. et exc., title in German-Latin-French as above. 13⅛ × 9¾ in (33.3 × 24.7 cm).
Thienemann + Schwarz 773; Ridinger Cat. Darmstadt IV.8 with ills.; Metzner-Raabe, Illustr. Fabelbuch, 1998, vol. II (Bodemann), 123.I. – Sheet 9 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).
Beyond that at the same time also, 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 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 number top right which is almost unknown but appears later on. – Fleur-de-lis watermark. – Once having been mounted onto bluish-grey laid paper of the early 18th cent. watermarked SICKTE (the von Veltheim paper mill there) along with the Jumping Horse Heawood 2790 (Germany 18th Cent. Esp. in Doppelmayr, Sonnen-Uhren, Nuremberg 1719), upon which it now lies loosely. – Trimmed on three sides on the edge of the wide white plate margin. – Wonderful early impression.
Offer no. 12,507 | EUR 588. | export price EUR 559. (c. US$ 601.) + shipping
More plates from the Fables set :
The Fable belongs to the Artist as to the Poet,
and one lighted the other’s Light