Was Ridinger shy
at Confrontation with the Own Work ?
Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). Fabul 17-20. Group of the four supplementary sheets (all). Etchings with engraving by Martin Elias Ridinger (1731 Augsburg 1780). After 1767. Inscribed: J. E(l). Ridinger. inv(./:) et del. / M. El. Ridinger. sc. et exc(:/.) A. V., otherwise in German, Latin, and French as below. 13¼ × 9¾ in (33.6 × 24.7 cm).
Thienemann + Schwarz 781-784; Metzner-Raabe, Illustr. Fabelbuch, 1998, vol. II (Bodemann), 123.I. – Sheets 17-20 of the Fables. – 3 sheet with figurative and typographic watermark resp. – The repeated “.” after Ridinger missing in Schwarz who besides mentions a “:” after FABUL instead of the simple dot here. Instead of the partial “:” after “exc” and “inv” resp. here there just a “.”. – With fine white platemarks and paper margins. In the left one old traces of stitching. – Especially 18-20 in wonderful to really marvelous impressions.
Innocence is often saved through the Hatred of the Evil
Servitude taken up for Love of Splendor one shall endure with Patience
Foolish Conceit about Foreign Beauties deserves reasonable People’s Contempt
The Innocence suppressed by an Invent Pretext.
The exceptionally rare four supplementary sheets
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, page 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, his moreover only newly worked fable conception, in favour of a now also for himself thoroughly newly, sovereignly formulated large flat clearness (exemplarily for this especially 17th + 20th) 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 just in the fascination to have created not only a new fable image, but cultivated this, once more in itself, to a new level.
Comparable in this connection, as quoted repeatedly by Ridinger, it may be pointed out to Watteau and here to his “Party in the Open/Park” in Berlin, on which Pierre Rosenberg notes: “… the Berlin painting is
an evidence that the artist wished to reinvent himself
by creation of a new type of composition …”
(Exhibition Catalogue Watteau, Washington/Paris/Berlin 1984/85, p. 415).
Relating to Ridinger quite exemplary his “Memento Mori” Schwarz 1426 worked in mezzotint, for that three states could described here for the first time which document a radicalized spiritualization of the civic fine composition of the picture originally Dutch anchored. In this case promoted by the necessity of re-touchings of the mezzotint plate technically conditioned extremely fast wearing off which according to the expert Sandrart (1675) only permits 50-60 good impressions.
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.
The practically inevitable great rarity of present four supplementary sheets known to literature since Thienemann’s statement of 1856: they “make themselves very scarce, are already not to be found in some older editions, and have been left out entirely in the latest, what is to be regretted though” (p. 151).
Accordingly then also the 1889 catalog of the Coppenrath Collection on the 20-sheet copy: “Fine main set … Rare”. And in 1900 Helbing qualified in his 1554-item Ridinger catalog (XXXIV): “The last (4) numbers are extremely rare”. And while he owned beside a complete copy multiple single prints of the first sixteen except for 12 & 13, so of the final four plates only 17 & 19 in one additional copy each. On the market till today then almost only the 16-sheet basic set, too.
The different printing states of the title, documenting the repeated editions, besides most beautiful proof of the success of the work, which obviously did reach its particular target group, the youth.
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„ … sind die Dachse perfekt verpackt und verschnürt bei mir … angekommen. Schon das Auspacken des Bildes hat mir große Freude gemacht und der ‚Ridinger‘ gefällt mir sehr gut, da es eine realistische Stimmung am Bau wiederspiegelt … werde ihn unter meiner Dachsschwarte aufhängen … Ich nehme dies zum Anlaß auch weiterhin in ihrem Fundus zu suchen … Besonderen Dank auch für die Beilage der Dez. 08 Ausgabe von Wild & Hund mit dem gelungenen (Ridinger-)Artikel … Ihnen nochmals herzlichen Dank für ihre fabelhafte Arbeit … “
(Herr K. R., 19. Juni 2009)