Monkeys — they are that human

Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). Splendour and Grandeur makes no one Brighter. A monkey poses as the throneworthy and stag, horse, billy-goat, bear, wolf, hare, Ridinger-hound, and other honest mammals are content with it. But the cunning fox lets the tom-cat become the seducer and the monkey “quite ridiculous to all”. Etching with engraving. (1744.) Inscribed: Joh. El. Ridinger inv. del. et exc. Aug. Vind., title in German-Latin-French as above. 13⅜ × 10⅛ in (34 × 25.6 cm).

Thienemann + Schwarz 777 (FABUL“:” contrary “.” here); Metzner-Raabe, Illustr. Fabelbuch, 1998, vol. II (Bodemann), 123.I. – Sheet 13 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, Splendour and Grandeur makes no one Brighter

“ A monkey found a royal throne standing vacant; because he had seen once the king sitting on the same, he was eager to examine more closely the royal ornaments which once had caused his amazement … Thus he stepped closer, put on the royal clothes, put on the crown, took the scepter, and affected with grave miens and majestic expression to represent a king … The sly fox realized the matter, therefore he advised to present the king with nuts, grapes and other fruits … When the Monkey King saw this present he leaped off the throne and flew at the fruits … so that he forgot crown and scepter over it. The fox when he saw this … cried; see brothers: His Majesty! ”

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.

Superb early impression still without the number upper right which not became known to Thienemann, Weigel, Helbing, Schwarz, but appears later. – Traces of the stitching of binding in the a bit torn left paper margin. A tear touching the title repaired acid-freely. – “A very well done plate” (Th.).

Offer no. 12,510 | EUR 562. | export price EUR 534. (c. US$ 646.) + shipping

“ I am writing to you to have suggestion from you, the specialist of J.E.Ridinger. I am an art historian … ”


“ Thank you very much for quick response. Your suggestion is so helpful and can correct many erroneous captions which have been attached to the Ridinger’s prints in Japan until now … ”

(Ms. Y. K.-S., 19 + 22 December 2009)


The Cream of the Day