Alexander the Great’s
First Passage of the Tigris
in the Copy Counts Faber-Castell
Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). (Alexander M. Tigrim superat … / Alexander the Great crosses with his Army … the Immense River Tigris … .) Alexander’s deeply staggered passage of the Tigris “without significant resistance” (Meyers Konversations-Lexikon) at Bedzabde 331 on the march to the encounter with Darius (III, last one of the Persian kings) with the decisive battle at Gaugamela in the vicinity of Arbela October 1st. Swimming along quite in front lower right above Ridinger’s signature boar hound as already chasing along on the 334 Siege + Conquest of Halicarnassus and “Ridinger hounds” likewise guard the signature on the Alexander drawing from 1723 (for both see below), while in the riding school from 1722 two boar hounds watch over the exercises of Th. 620. Engraving by Johann Balthasar Probst (1673 Augsburg 1750) at Johann Daniel Herz I (1693 Augsburg 1754; an “art publisher with an eye for quality” [Rolf Biedermann, 1987], “especially his sheets of large size shall be mentioned” [Thieme-Becker, 1923]). Early 1720s. Inscribed: XCIV (platemark upper center) + 3 lines in the subject margin lower right: Senior Ioh. Dan. Herz excud. Aug. Vind. / Iohann Elias Riedinger (sic!) pinxit / (Iohann Balthasar Probst sculps.), otherwise with caption missing here. Sheet size 18¾ × 30¼ in (47.6 × 76.8 cm).
The copy described by Nagler in 1843 (?)
their Ridinger sale 1958
with its lot no. 66
in red on the underlay carton
Thienemann + Schwarz 918; Weigel, Art Stock Catalog, XXVIII/Ridinger (1857) I, 61c; Gg. Hamminger Collection 1832 ( “Above cut and somewhat repaired … Extremely rare!”, 1895 ); Helbing XXXIV (Arbeiten von J. E. und M. E. Ridinger, 1900) 1489 ( “Rare” ).
Nagler, Ridinger, XIII, p. 162 ( “rich composition”, yet erroneously as Passage of the Granicus [battle there May 334], therewith in unawareness of the caption up to the engraver [this copy?] for whom he erroneously states Joh. Daniel Herz I instead of Joh. Balthasar Probst. The former, however, is only the engraver of the pendant sheet with the Siege of Halicarnassos, while the present Passage of the Tigris he has published only. Logically this then also missing in Nagler’s listing for Probst [XII, pp. 80 f.] ); Thieme-Becker XXVIII (1934), 308-311: VII. Miscellanea: (Two) Battles of Alexander the Great.
Not in the Silesian Ridinger Collection Boerner XXXIX (1885; “of greatest richness … many rarities”) , Coppenrath Collection (1889/90) , R. collection at Wawra (1890; besides 234 drawings 600 prints) , Reich auf Biehla Collection (1894; “Of all [R. collections on the market] since long time there is none standing comparison even approximately with the present one in respect of completeness and quality … especially the rarities and undescribed sheets present in great number”; 1266 sheet – among them the pendant to the one above with the Siege of Halicarnassos in probably our copy, qualified as “Extremely rare” – plus 470 duplicates + 20 drawings) , Schwerdt (1928/35) , R. list Rosenthal (1940; 444 nos.). As then also here through the decades present for the first time and likewise without knowledge of any other presence on the market.
The smaller pendant
to the 334 Siege + Conquest of Halicarnassus
(Th. 917) in the first year of the Alexander campaign as
early work of Ridinger’s
within his Alexander cycle and both
marvelous examples of early maturity and perfection
as already repeatedly stated by example of other early works (“therefore this drawing is of importance for the knowledge of his already perfect style in early years”, Nebehay 88,2 on the drawing for Th. 1 from 1721). Foremost, however, Ridinger’s
tribute to the Alexander cult of his time
and created as expression of his quite personal admiration
soon after his return – to be set not before 1719 – from the three-years stay with Baron (so Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie contrary to Kilian/Thienemann: Count) Metternich in Regensburg, when “all connoisseurs … admired his skill and strength in both historic and animal pieces” (Th.) while he nevertheless not yet worked in copper himself. So “at first there (he) painted several historical representations for the art dealer Dan. Herz” (Nagler; recte Jeremias Wolff, additionally documented for Herz, too, 1732 only, see below), among these as continuation/closing, though obviously not published as politically incorrect by both Wolff and Herz and therefore known in its drawing from 1723 only, Alexander the Great at the Hyphasis in the Punjab, India, in Autumn 326 BC as the zenith of his empire and a turning point of history by which Ridinger with rather yet unconscious inner renunciation of the heroic pathos of the previous two engraved plates and in rewriting of art history now felt the Alexander campaign’s pulse, only to let follow already in the ’30s by the set Fights of Killing Animals – published then enlarged only 1760! – jointly with B. H. Brockes (1680 Hamburg 1747) a verdict of merciless rigor.
Nagler’s erroneous information (1843) that Herz had commissioned the Alexander cycle was followed also by Schwarz (1910) as he catalogued the Herz state of the Halicarnassus sheet as first state (917) while that with the address of Wolff Heirs as “2nd impression, the former address of Herz deleted” (917a). Actually it is vice versa. Recallable first that both Ridinger’s earliest riding school from 1722 and his third hunting set from 1723 (Th. 9-12) were published by Wolff. The latter of which entirely engraved by Herz, of the former 14 of the twenty-three plates. Hence Herz was active in Wolff’s workshop, though in a leading position as he was allowed to sign his works like Wolff’s son-in-law, Probst. Just as then also Schwarz 917a: “Ioh. Daniel Hertz sculpsit”. Not less, but also not more.
In Schwarz 917, however, Herz’ “sculp” is still followed by the publisher’s “exc(udit)”, therefore the plate meanwhile came into his possession. And self-confidently he now also puts a “Senior” in front of his name what should presuppose an already co-working junior (the father was only named Daniel and was cabinet-maker and handicraft-artist). Johann Daniel II, following in his father’s footsteps, was only born 1720 though, just about the time of his father’s employment with Wolff.
Thought works for Wolff besides always inscribed with “Hertz”, that is an additional “t”, which he obviously omitted later. So in the second state of Halicarnassus, present Passage of the Tigris, the Daniel in the Den of Lions (Schwarz 1440) from the ’30s.
Another Herz indication with this time negative report for Wolff the incorrect leading “e” in Ri(e)dinger as was in vogue a century later. So in Schwarz 918, but also on Ridinger’s reverse preparatory drawing (but not the engraving) for the Den of Lions whose signature + dating are attributed here contrary to its cataloguing for the Counts Faber-Castell Ridinger sale (1958, lot 2) as not autograph to the Herz workshop.
The order after Wolff additionally results from the Roman numbering with 87 + 94 of the present copies of the Alexander prints which shows them as part of an extensive collection probably established only by Herz. Schwarz mentions such one neither for 917a (would be logical, as Wolff state), but also not for 917 + 918 as each with Herz’ publisher-excudit, what supposedly suggests less a further (in-between) state but a trimming of Gutmann’s copies. For the Den of Lions sheet (1440), however, he notes for the same upper margin place as here “CLXXVIII” (178). The remarkably rising series chronologically documented by the “1732” (not 1737 as with Faber-Castell) within said written “Ridinger” signature on the drawing for the Den of Lions.
On Ridinger’s part as evidenced by the autograph dating the Alexander cycle is concluded for the present not later than 1723 by the Hyphasis drawing as periodical, with regard to the artist though predominantly intellectual zenith, as the latter also documented by the “Ridinger” hounds in each case close to the signature. In both battles of the early Alexander years, as almost reprehensibly missed by Thienemann, the in each case co-acting heavy boar hound, on the 326 insight scene grey + par force hound, in rest the one, alert the other, where with respect to the visible mutiny the boar hound would not have been misplaced either.
As evidenced by the address of Wolff Heirs of the Halicarnassus sheet Schwarz 917a the plates have only been published after Wolff’s death in 1724 (Nagler’s precautionary remark “According to others he still lived 1730” not repeated by Thieme-Becker ). By the heirs themselves obviously – all with the proviso of current knowledge – only Halicarnassus, because the present Tigris sheet (918) engraved by Probst bears already the address of Herz as publisher. The latter therefore should have taken over the plates soon after 1724.
Present scene then “An exceedingly rich , very well-worked sheet , the pendant to the previous one (Halicarnassus, see above). Alexander stands on the elevated bank, surrounded by some generals, pointing and crying,
behind him ( his intimate companion Hephaestion
and two ) blowing buglers .
With the soldiers tremendously fighting with the waves (just as already with the opponents) profound variety and truth ” (Thienemann).
Two sides with tiny margin around the subject, above with 5 mm wider and here with the number not mentioned by Thienemann + Schwarz, below, however, trimmed close to the subject edge under loss of still the Probst signature, but foremost of the 4 lines Latin-German caption from Curtius Rufus, book IV, chapter 9 –
„ Alexander the Great crosses with his army, of which the infantry held the weapons over the head and was surrounded by those on horseback, the immense River Tigris. He was the first who so arrived on the bank on foot, and shows those following the best way if one could not hear his voice ”
(quoted after Thienemann) – as obviously also neither known nor present otherwise to Nagler or he would not have erred about Granicus/Tigris and also had known Probst as engraver – on both see above – , that way then suggesting that
present Faber-Castell provenance
should be extendable
up to the great art lexicographer Nagler (1842/43) .
Tiny tear nearly 9 cm long in the lower field left of the center professionally repaired and barely impairing, otherwise, as with such large formats worth special mentioning,
of decidedly fine general condition
at adequate print quality of contrast-rich chiaroscuro .
The works of Johann Balthasar Probst, listed by Thieme-Becker only as reproduction engraver, as the or one of the progenitors of the Augsburg engraver + publisher dynasty qualified by Nagler as
“ belonging to the best of that time ”.
For the earliest of Ridinger’s riding schools from 1722 engraved jointly with present Herz I he contributed nine of the totally twenty-three plates. As son-in-law and successor of the renown engraver and publisher Jeremias Wolff in Augsburg Probst finally carried on his publishing house and attended to the first edition of the Halicarnassus plate still taken in by the father-in-law and engraved by Herz I.
With the no. 66 on the mounting board written in red as proof of the origin from the 1958 sale of the in both quality and quantity high-ranking Ridinger Collection Counts Faber-Castell, accompanied
by most extreme rarity
as generally documented for the plates of the early years still engraved by others.
Offer no. 14,854 / price on application
„ (D)ie Sendung (Hogarth / Marriage à-la-Mode) ist gestern wohlbehalten hier eingetroffen. Ist alles bestens, und ich danke Ihnen nochmals herzlich für die Beantwortung meiner Fragen und prompte Lieferung … Viele Grüße … “
(Herr C. K., 3. November 2013)