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The Prophet Daniel’s Miracle

in the Den of Lions

Johann Elias Ridinger, Daniel in the Den of Lions

as Symbolic Parable

for the Israelites

Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). Daniel in the Den of Lions. By example of Daniel, promoted in the Jew’s Babylonian Captivity and under the Persian Cyrus I calumniated by enviers and consigned to the den of lions, Jehovah, the god of the Israelites, shows his might, exciting the court on the gallery in unbelieving stupefaction. Brush drawing with wash in grey-blue + black with heightening in white for 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]). Inscribed in bistre: Jo El. Riedinger (sic!) inv et del 1732. 33 × 21 in (837 × 533 mm) & 1¼ × ¾ in (32 × 20 mm) additional inscription field laterally lower right.


Amsler & Ruthardt XLVIII (1894), 893

( “Capital Drawing” )

Alexander Count of Faber-Castell


his Ridinger sale 1958 with its lot no. 2
in red on the underlay carton

Niemeyer, Ridinger Erlebnisse 1698-2020, 2021, pp. 36-41 with 4 color ills., one of them fullsize.

One of the Most Outstanding Ridinger Drawings

– The Copy of Alexander Count of Faber-Castell  –

The preparatory drawing in reverse, pictorially lined with wide and narrow border, to plate Schwarz 1440 worked by the engraver Johann Jacob Wangner (“Iun.”, c. 1703 Augsburg 1781; the contemporary Augsburg artists “also furnished him with drawings to be engraved”, Nagler) and known to literature only since 1910 by the copy of the von Gutmann Collection (identical with the one in the ALBERTINA ?), in its reproduction, however, obviously remaining far behind the bloom of the drawing (its subject size with somewhat narrower conclusion above 31¼ × 21⅞ in [793 × 557 mm; sic! or mistake?] mm compared with a pure subject size here of 32¼-32⅜ × 20 in [820-822 × 507-509 mm]).

The ie spelling of the signature (at A&R/Faber-Castell erroneously read as 1737) in correspondence with the likewise imperial-sized drawing of the Roman Emperor on Horseback obviously remained unpublished of the Hamminger Collection (1895, cat. no. 1932, “Joan Eli Riedinger del. 1734”), but also with the engravings Th. 793-796 (1724/28; so also Th. 1381 engraved by Kleinschmidt in 1728) as well as 249 & 251 (c. 1738/40) bearing his own sculpsit. By which the hitherto also here common opinion that ie inscriptions in drawings were to be assigned generally to other hands proves irrelevant for at least up to the 1730s. This corresponding also with the recent reference by a Riedinger descendant that the name had been written variably in the course of time. Our former cataloging of present Daniel drawing that the inscription were just by the publisher is therefore unfounded.

Present work belongs to the largest-sized of the drawn œuvre

(“ You have given me a huge pleasure by the photo … of Riedinger’s depiction of ‘Daniel in the Den of Lions’. The lions have actually lost all blood-thirst of predaceous animals and nestle against the imprisoned Daniel like peaceable cats making his stay in the den tolerably well. A wonderful picture! ” [Mrs. S. S., Switzerland])

and follows the bible’s tradition Book of Daniel, chap. 6 :

“ It pleased Darius (recte Cyrus the Elder, see below) to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom. And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first … Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault … Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God … Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king (very sorrowful about the development) spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee … Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions … (a)nd cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: … is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel … that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me … Then was the king exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den … and no manner of hurt was found upon him,

because he believed in his God .”

Just as this then also had the Babylonian Captivity (597-537, thus not “70 years” as Jeremiah 25:11), anyway not to be mistaken as enslavement though still wearing the Jews down, grow to his people’s weal for it became

“ a period of purification from which the Israelites emerged both nationally and religiously as newly born. The contrast to the victorious, but degenerated paganism invigorated the nationalism and the religious belief … (I)nstead of a limited tribal god

one learned to recognize in Jehovah the master of the universe

under whose mighty protection one knew oneself ”

(Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, 4th ed., II [1888], 207).

Under the latter aspect the spectacular Den of Lions event proves to be, independently of its true chronological base, see below,

the parable of Jehovah’s protective hand over the Israelites

persisting up to the very today ,

a theme which with respect to his insight drawing from 1723 on Alexander the Great’s decision at the Indian Hyphasis in 326 BC to return was to fascinate Ridinger even more so as according to biblical reading Daniel had prophesied the empire of a mighty king to be identified with Alexander to whom ten years before he had dedicated his Alexander cycle – besides the Hyphasis drawing The Siege of Halicarnassus and The Passage of the Tigris published also in engraving by Jeremias Wolff Heirs and Herz I resp. – and which theme in the ’30s he jointly with Brockes finally sounded the mort with the first four plates of the Fights of Killing Animals.

But also just by its size his

imposing Den of Lions sheet

of marvelous upright format

stands in context with those of the Alexander cycle of which, however, just only the two “heroic” ones had been engraved and published elsewhere for at that time not yet working in copper and publishing himself. Nevertheless the procedure remained the same, too, for the later Den of Lions.

Common to all those “outside works” their

exorbitant rarity even as engravings

as then also for the one of the “Den of Lions” no second copy is provable here since Schwarz (1910). Engraved it was expressly missing thus with Alexander Count of Faber-Castell (1958), too.

The paths of the preparatory drawings as the plates were – different from the works kept together by the Ridingers through the generations and finally handed over in good order – determined by changing publishers now sooner, then later and their being embedded into a mixed production finally lost in anonymity. On account of such handicaps

the preservation of present Den of Lions drawing

is an event of absolute degree

to which the condition of already the times of Faber-Castell with following preservation by just one careful hand has to be inferior.

So besides two horizontal smoothed folds which remained perceptible as abrasions at top below the gallery and centrally below the archway a plenty of tiny(est) abrasions especially in the marginal parts, then, and here impairing only up to a point, for 2.5-3 cm in height in the left part of the sheet above the centerfold. Of the predominantly only spotlike foxing on the back only isolated slightly larger ones shining through largely in the upper half of the subject, perceptible almost only in the washed free area between archway and gallery. Quite isolated small marginal tears reinforced. Generally the quite tolerable wrinkles of the centuries as due to the hard to preserve oversize and greatest rarity, concealed by the

pictorial grandeur of the composition

with its, not least,

Ridinger, Daniel in the Den of Lions (Detail)

11 different masterly lion physiognomies.

And how elitist solitarily

the moreover only few historical drawings by Ridinger

stand out from the still remarkable bulk of his animal drawings


by their complete missing

in the following opulent inventories of Ridinger drawings :

Weigel (1856, with c. 1849 sheet – 17 of which lion sheets of usual kind – most extensive inventory, dating back to the bequest of drawings purchased from the heirs in 1832) – Coppenrath (1889/90, 66 sheet) – Wawra (1890, 234 sheet) .

First presence on the market on occasion of present Den of Lions drawing then 1958 with Faber-Castell , followed by great temporal distance by above Alexander drawing writing art history with the Hyphasis event of 326 and present here likewise.

Not least in this connection it shall also be reminded of Hans Möhle’s reference of already 1947 to which

“ the special accomplishment of German baroque lies in the subject of the drawing ”

as more recently Ruth Baljöhr drew the attention on again.

And thus remains as résumé

an also optically marvelous unique Ridinger

full of perfect graphic skill

and adequate content

of culture-historically greatest depth .

For today’s Jewry rests on just those pillars which are fruits of the, more correctly spoken, Babylonian Exile as co-source of also the Den of Lions manifestation based on one “for he believed in God”. For, it shall be repeated,

“ In fact the Jews lived quite peacefully and had plenty of opportunity to practice their faith in exile in Babylon.

The synagogue and the canonization of the Torah

have their origins in Babylonian Judaism ,

as , of course , does the Babylonian Talmud ”

(Bryan S. Rennie ,

Westminster College, New Wilmington, PA, in his internet article [c. 2005] The Dating of the Book of Daniel with elucidation of the author of the tradition turning out to be a non-contemporary with the result of an also mixed up sequence of government Cyrus/Darius, but foremost also an attribution of the Daniel stories to the age of the Seleucid ruler of Babylon, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who in 167 BC profaned the temple and in whose time [176-163], which just as well were the time of the author of the Book of Daniel, “loyalty to the Jewish food laws and the refusal to worship images of other gods – as starting point of the report on the Den of Lions – had become a question of life and death”).

By which the report of the Den of Lions event proves to be a combination of the religious hardships at the time of Antiochus with the historical characters of the Babylonian Exile. Because for the king anxious about Daniel inevitably the profaner and religious tyrant Antiochus is out of question while it is just the Persian Cyrus who became king of Babylon in 539 and in 538 issued

the fortune-changing Edict of Cyrus

(cf. 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 and Ezra 1:1-3 resp.) as a

“ crucial event in the history of the religion of Israel ”

(Rennie) as ultimately permitting the Hebrews the return to Israel.

Both facts, religious persecution under Antiochus and royal munificence under Cyrus, constitute the intellectual content of the Den of Lions experience and its message

to be as the Lord’s chosen people

under Jehovah’s special protection ,

also and not least

in the dens of lions of the times .

Compare also with Rembrandt’s sketchlike pen and ink drawing of the Den of Lions event in Amsterdam (cat. of the Netherlandish drawings of the Rijksmuseum, vol. I, Rembrandt en zijn School, 1942, no. 64 with pl. 47) and the “1652”, recte 1649, drawing of the same theme of his pupil Constantijn de Renesse in Rotterdam (Giltaij, The Drawings by Rembrandt and his School in the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, 1988, 130 with [color] ills. pp. 243 & 257). No indication, however, in Robels (1989) of the Den of Lions picture by Frans Snyders (1579-1657) mentioned by Meyers Konv.-Lex., 4th ed., vol. XIV (1889), 1045 for the imperial gallery in Vienna.

For the execution in grey-blue here see Vredeman de Vries’ 1574 pen and ink drawing watercolored in blue Daniel and King Cyrus in the Temple of Bel in Vienna (exhib. cat. Hans Vredeman de Vries und die Renaissance im Norden, 2002, no. 130 with ills. in color), formed possibly in context to his four Daniel copies to etchings of the 1579 Thesaurus biblicus with de Jode (cat. no. 131). As then Daniel’s apocryphal episodes were generally paid attention to by the Old Master. So we have Rembrandt’s 1633 oil of the said communal visit in the temple (Gerson, Rembrandt’s Paintings, 1968, no. 59 with ills.). And to the Book Daniel, e.g., Jeronymus Cock published an engraved set after Maarten van Heemskerck in 1565. But in Washington Rubens’ in every respect great Daniel in the Den of Lions of 1614/16 (88¼ × 130⅛ in [224.2 × 330.5 cm]).

In such a way Ridinger’s fantastic drawing here follows an old and great tradition .

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