Ridinger’s intellectual & sociopolitical Pre-1789 Credo
and with Th. 722
an artistic Culmination of his late Work
THE SET OF THE BIG FIVE
by which with Plates 1-4 Ridinger / Brockes
Catch up with their Boldness
and in Anticipation of the Epoch of the Storm & Stress
they Enlighten by most subtle
Wrapped Wrapping an imaginably aggressive
FOR FREEDOM & HUMANITY
Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). (Fights of Killing Animals) or The Big Five. Set of 8 sheet. Etched/engraved by Johann Elias (1-4) and Martin Elias (1731 Augsburg 1780) Ridinger. (1760.) Large fol. (plate size c. 15 × 11⅝ in [38 × 29.5 cm]). Boards covered with laid paper and on front cover stamped in brown “Johann Elias Ridinger Anno 1760. / Mit beygefügter vortrefflichen Poesie des hochberühmten Herrn Barthold Heinrich Brockes” in slipcase.
Thienemann ( „Rare“, 1856! ) + Schwarz 716-723; Cat. Weigel 16,545 ( „Old impressions now to be found only rarely“, 1847!) + XXVIII (1857), 40 A (of C); Coll. Friesen 1030 (2 sheet only, 1847); Silesian R. coll. at Boerner XXXIX, 1914 (“Fine set”, 1885); Coll. Reich auf Biehla 148 (“Some slightly stained”, 1894); Coll. Coppenrath 1564 (margins partially added, 1889); (Ridinger) Cat. Helbing XXXIV (1900), 1259 as
“ Very rare set ”
(Th. 717 in a later impression only); Schwerdt III, 143; Stubbe, Ridinger, 1966, pp. 16 f. + 25 f. with plts. 33 f.; exhibition cat. Augsburg 1967 (three sheet only) 75-77 + ills. 15, erroneously attributing all engravings to Martin Elias; Ridinger catalogues Kielce, 1997, 126 f. (Th. 720 f.) + Darmstadt, 1999, IV.1-IV.7 (without sheet 8), fully illustrated. – With the Brockes verses (1-4) and the ones adapted to those resp.
sceneries of wild beauty of the Big Five in savanna and rocky mountains ,
but also close to humans. Among these
“ The Furious Leopard (recte tiger) as he lacerates a Donkey ”
identifying the beast of prey with Alexander of Macedonia, for, so Brockes,
“ Do stop ! Your cruel image impresses also instructive reflections on my mind !
Should a world conqueror’s look not even be much more horrible ?
Calling forth even greater horror ?
and has , with untold corses ,
which his barbarian word slaughters ,
this animal not to yield to him ?
Hunger spurs on the leopard ,
but wantonness Alexander,
Sheds that one animal’s ,
sheds this whole streams of blood
of 50,000 of his own kind by iron claws bought by him ,
Come , let us see then once , if you can ,
a picture of the Wild Victor ,
His look , provided you get it right ,
certainly takes precedence over this bloodthirsty beast
in rage , wrath , in foam , and horribleness . ”
150 years later in Homer’s Contest Nietzsche casts this in philosophical ore by the words:
“ … the tiger bounded forth ,
a voluptuous cruelty shone out of his fearful eye . ”
In this merely choosing Alexander from the universal when he says in advance “Thus the Greeks, the most humane men of ancient times, have in themselves a trait of cruelty, of tiger-like pleasure in destruction: a trait, which in … Alexander the Great, is very plainly visible … (nevertheless is) not specifically Hellenic; through (it) Greece comes into contact with India and the Orient.”
In catalog Augsburg Rolf Biederman assumes the creation of the drawings for already the ’30s what corresponds to Brockes’ lifetime (1680 Hamburg 1747). At which it needs the following, generally supposedly missed specification :
Originally the set was restricted to sheets 1-4 with Brockes’ texts and transferred to the plates exclusively by Johann Elias. And thus was beyond the Alexander dedication
as a whole the oriflamme for freedom
as which it is analyzed for the first time in detail below. And because of which it thus remained unpublished. Comparable to some extent Vredeman de Vries’ etching The Massacre of the Roman Triumvirate as an innuendo to the “unjust and arrogant policy of the Duke of Alba” in the Southern Netherlands. “The political explosiveness of the sheet explains why in the first state Vredeman is not quoted as designer”.
It seems that only Martin Elias as youthfully more reckless effected the publication in 1760. For sheets 5-8 are etched/engraved by him alone. And that after red-hot designs the father had worked only then. See the signed drawings 389-392 dated with 1760 in the Ridinger appendix of the 1869 catalogue of drawings left behind by J. A. G. Weigel. From which it also may be deduced that not just the drawings together with the texts to the highly explosive sheets 1-4 were ready since long, but their plates, too.
Complementing that risky original set by four further sheets with texts only à la Brockes and thus harmless was, beside the wish for a more comfortable sales unit, quite surely and intentionally for the purpose to conceal the striking message of the first four. The raise thus as together final outer cover.
To see here the driving force in Martin Elias corresponds very well with the character of the motor he assumed in just those years for the set of the Most Wondrous Deer and other Animals. For when in the ’50s the father began to lose the interest in this large project and the set dozed during the Seven Years’ War with just five novelties, it was Martin Elias who revived the project about 1763 with the Hubertusburg badger as sheet 74 (Th. 316) and then in fact transferred with 21 of the final 27 sheets the lion’s share into the plate. Yet by this Martin Elias gains a meaning for the Ridinger publishing house which goes well beyond the hitherto existing perception of the predominantly co-working executing engraver – of highest quality however, see on this in the following Stubbe by means of Th. 722 – so still only recently Stefan Morét in the exhibition catalogue Darmstadt 1999 (pages 62/3).
Furthermore interesting in this connection that now Johann Elias did not leave it at the four following drawings worked till publishing, of which that to Th. 722 has demonstrative character for Stubbe, see below. Once picked up again he created, as far as supported by dates and known here, still in 1763/64 four analogous further drawings to this theme (items 393-396 of the Weigel catalogue; the ones accordingly following there per 397/98 both not signed/dated as of also larger size).
“ Of this excellent work eight sheets have been published …
(here in the sequence The Horse and the Lion , Th. 716 / Lioness with Cub by a Rock Attacked by an “enormously large Bear” , Th. 718 / The furious Leopard lacerating an Ass , Th. 719 / The Elephant and the Rhinoceros / The “Pardel” over a Camel / The Wild Buffalo and the Crocodile / The Hippopotamus and the Lion / The Aurochs and the Tiger , Th. 717).
They make themselves scarce
and already in the catalogues of Herzberg (1824) and so forth
only the first four are mentioned ”
( Thienemann, 1856 , 716-719 ) .
But already in the contemporaneously formed legendary Ridinger folios of the marvelous Pembroke Library in Wilton House, purchased supposedly by the 10th Earl of Pembroke in Paris in 1768, the last four were missing.
Here , however , present completely
in the very fine early impressions of a dissolved contemporary album with wide upper and lower, at the sides differently less wide margins. The majority of these, partially also just here and there, mostly only slightly foxspotted. Two tiny tears in the lower margin backed acid-freely.
Thienemann points out to some erroneous designations, that is leopard = tiger, Pardel supposedly “the cougar (felis concolor, Linn.) or the American lion … which Ridinger knew, but always mentions wrongly”, aurochs and tiger = European bison and panther. – In catalogue Darmstadt (p. 91) Stefan Morét lines out the informal-general embedding of the set with the words
“ The sujet of the animal fight exists since classical antiquity, in prints since the 16th century. A famous ancient example, the marble of a horse killed by a lion, on the Capitol in Rome, served as model for Ridinger’s first sheet of the set ” .
The latter rather via the relevantly famous statuettes by Giambologna (Giovanni Bologna, Douai 1529 – Florence 1608), among then, to be seen before the background of the marble, also just the lion with the horse as “an unusual variation of the theme” (Cat. Prague, see below) or the bull killed by the tiger. Widely delivering only the sketches the first particularly known by the bronze version by Antonio Susin(i) worked about 1600 as presumably commissioned work, in that time in the art chamber of Rudolf II where for instance Roelant Savery should have been inspired by it, see below. Both works found wide spread by repetitions and copies and so Ridinger on his part could have known it at the Augsburg silver smithies as leading then.
His lion-horse etching of the set of the Fights
is most largely a repetition in reverse of the Susin version
(see catalog Rudolf II and Prague, 1997, p. 520, II/236 with ills.).
And by starting his set with this key motif he set it as a whole deliberately in a tradition familiarly besides to him in which it has not been seen and, more important, appreciated till now, he cultivated the artistic harmony to the school overlapping revival of the theme understood as a fascinosum in the age before, he joined the applause for the
“ Magic of the Beasts ”
(Justus Müller-Hofstede in his review of the 1985 Cologne/Utrecht Savery exhibition [FAZ Nov. 10, 1985] with illustration of the 1628 Lions striking a cow), generally understood like a parabel for the order of the world. But subjecting his Fights up to outermost provocation by the Brockes verses (sheets 1-4) he made it not only independent, but completed it altogether by inclusion of man now, too.
But also this unison between Ridinger and Brockes drawing the picture of two men as it is, at least regarding Ridinger, hardly imaginable
conceivably more unknown ,
conceivably more aggressive ,
conceivably more modern
remained completely unnoticed hitherto up to Stubbe (1966) and Morét (1999).
For what presents itself at first glance “only” as the damnation of an event long time ago, namely the Alexander campaign (Th. 719), blazes up to an oriflamme of freedom and humanity when its history is removed. To which Alexander of Macedonia served as synonym wrapped once more in itself. The verdict was meant, at least simultaneously, for the own absolute authorities. That saw itself in the succession of Alexander. The old Alexander idolization forced unchanged new flowers.
So in 1585 a submissive Antwerp let Vredeman de Vries call the great ancestor in the stand of witness to greet its subduer Alessandro Farnese:
And one hundred years later Alexander was in Paris the “favourite comparison” of the young Louis XIV (1661-1715), culminating in Le Brun’s monumental Batailles d’Alexandre, let in Bavaria elector Maximilian II Emanuel (1662-1726) design a suite including his bedroom in his Munich residence as Alexander rooms directly on his accession to the throne in 1680, could only recently Gode Krämer in Augsburg identify Maulbertsch’s (1724-1796) furious pen drawing there as Alexander at the Corpse of Dareios and thus as further example of a busy market (see its illustration together with dated interpretation pp. 316/317 of the Baroque catalog of 1987).
And just as in two preparatory drawings in Augsburg and Stuttgart by the court painter Wolff (1652-1716), involved in the execution of the ceiling frescos in the dressing room of elector Max II Emanuel, Alexander puts on the dress of the Persian vanquished in 331, so in spirit the princes put on those of Alexander. To be undressed of these again by Ridinger-Brockes.
For the equation of the furious leopard with Alexander is together and merely at once personified wrapping, unmistakable clearing of the image in the telescopic sight. The sceneries Thienemann 716-718 were meant for the system as such.
“ Oh save this fine animal
which the tyrant’s weight crushes !
It already is in the lion’s jaws ! …
I would like … to bemoan its harsh case ,
Yet (the) lion bares his teeth at me …
and even my quill startles . ”
“ Here … breaks out in blazing flames !
We see / The lioness … not going against the bear
Driving against , jumping , flying ,
and blind by rage inflamed by fury ,
defying danger and need and death
that its enemy’s superior standing ,
In advantageous position threatens ,
She attacks , as she could not else ,
… even the bear’s paws . ”
“ Here justice shows up , here cruelty is punished ,
And revenged many a gobbled up animal ,
The Aurochs … kills , with not unjust rage ,
By caution , bravery and strength , the bloodthirsty assailant ,
…One hears his screams of terror with delight
and sees with grace his pain.
… And discovers a stiff carrion left by its murderous soul .
… One sees how here the beholder’s look delights itself at the cruelty ,
We like the aurochs and take an interest in his victory . ”
It surprises how all this should have remained hidden to such an accurate piece-by-piece reviewer as Thienemann. For this group of four, and surely just by chance, but nevertheless strangely enough, just this is identical with the only four sheets of the set offered by Engelbrecht-Herzberg in 1824 anymore, should be quite elitist with its massive social criticism in the art of its time. Not to be missed then, too, the locations of its authors. Augsburg, governed democratically for a long period already in the Middle Ages, and Hamburg were Imperial Cities! They plainly prove here as vestibules of Liberty Island, whose ignited flame burns on in the “Fights of Killing Animals”.
The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World !
Those who have not experienced the dictatorships of the browns and reds in our more recent history may be skeptical towards these considerations. But they just have missed those little satisfactions easing everydaylife there, have not heard the vent applause when Schiller’s “Give freedom of thought” resounded from the stage, jubilated it in Leonore/Fidelio “To freedom, to freedom”! By the way it was just an East German pre-turn movie on Beethoven that emphasized the political rebelliousness of his early years in Vienna to the point one could not and would not go for his throat.
Thienemann’s and even the said present art historians’ shutting their eyes to Ridinger’s courageous paw strike is a sacrilege all the more as standing in weighty tradition as attached importance by Heiner Borggrefe in respect of the Netherlandish revolt so it should be quoted in a breadth as following:
“ As consequential reaction to the repressive policy of the Spanish government a subtle iconology found its expression. It based on the iconographic programs of the Netherlandish city halls (gerechtigheidstaferelen), in which traditionally the field of tension between municipal self-determination and reign’s abuse by the Burgundian dukes was the theme … These (referrings to biblical examples) were modified after the taking over of the Burgundian Netherlands by Philip II of Spain … The Calvinist Lucas de Heere (for instance) designed an iconographic program with scenes of the history of King David, which Cornelis Enghelrams included in scenographic architectures of Hans Vredeman. The history of King David was extraordinarily popular as political allegory under Protestant rulers. Already in 1570 Maarten de Vos had painted a triumph of David for the Lutheran dukes of Brunswick-Luneburg. So like David’s moral power had defeated the godless Goliath and the tyrant Saul so also Willem of Orange should overpower the Spanish occupying power. ”
And already before :
“ A direct reaction to a seriously political affair is (Vredeman’s) moving Massacre of the Triumvirate painted together with Mostaert in 1570. In the guise of an ancient history, the triumvirate of the Romans Antony, Octavian and Lepidus, who joined after the murder of Caesar to neutralize their opponents, the painting with its cruel scenes hinted at the Duke’s of Alba 1567 Brussels blood-tribunal. Vredeman could refer to Antoine Caron who repeatedly had depicted the Massacre of the Triumvirate as innuendo to the French day’s policy about 1566 … Aside from the Massacre of the Triumvirate Vredeman has painted a Massacre of the Innocents about 1570 which likewise should refer to the policy of the Spaniards because also his friend Pieter Bruegel the elder painted this theme in undoubted allusion to the bloody affairs in Brussels. The wording of day’s political events in ancient histories or biblical themes Vredeman and his orderers unknown to us used to avoid the Spanish censorship existing since 1558 in Antwerp (at first only for printed literature) … In May 1570 the censorship was extended to the prints … ”
(Borggrefe, [Themes and Contents of the Scenographic Paintings of Hans Vredeman de Vries], in the aforesaid exhibition catalog, pp. 138 ff., bold type not in the original).
Also when artists in such a way use to be masters in the already Old Testament disguise up of such messages – Eduard Beaucamp: “the Baroque itself opened the eyes for the complicated relation of modern artists with the powers” – , something like that remained and remains highly risky nevertheless! Ten worst years Hohen-Asperg as one knows Schubart (1743-1791) got – reduced to the essential – for his epigram „When Dionys stopped to be a tyrant, Then he became a little schoolmaster“. Duke Charles Eugene of Wurttemberg (1728-1793) as founder of the Karlsschule felt addressed. Its foundation in 1770 happened in the late period of the duke’s excessive regime who promised on his 50th birthday 1778 his restrain announced from the pulpit.
This well-known example also has indirect reference to Ridinger. For with the sheets Th. 288, 326 + 327 later also Charles Eugene is represented in the œuvre, is he independent of the time a classical example of that part of the clients for whom Ridinger-Brockes intended their set of four of the “Fights”. The danger paired with high economical risk at least for Ridinger is obvious. Thienemann, one hundred years later, preferred to ignore such aspects and dedicated to his sovereign with his Ridinger book the image of a good fellow. Not comprehended in his complexity, underrated in his artistry, inadequately honoured in his personality.
Like Handel in his oratorios, the fascinating of this group of four of the “Fights” of a downright pre-1789 spirit finally is their earliness once more. For of course they are already in the context of the “urge for freedom and humanity of (their) century” (Meyers), the epoch of Storm and Stress of their old and the hour of birth of the new world. But all this only determined the second half of the century! Then Brockes already had passed away, were his texts and Ridinger’s designs ready since long!
As has been proven at another place that Ridinger’s single mezzotint printed in colours (Schwerdt III, plate 214) together was the first one worked in Germany, that together with two still traditional battle engravings for the “Heroic Alexander” his drawing Alexander the Great at the Hyphasis in the Punjab in Autumn 326 BC from 1723 preceding as upbeat the verdict of the Fights anticipated by 60 years David’s Belisarius from 1780/81 praised as the first reflecting history picture, so he was, too, in regard of the Fights, together with Brockes, by decades ahead of the currents of his time being in the air.
To follow the co-working of both of them stretching after all over several sets could break further new territory especially for Ridinger. Having failed it even in the spectacular projection of the Fighting Set as in such a way now documented here for the first time is to be criticized all the more than not without example in the matter. So about the middle of the 16th century, for instance, the discussion on the social differences of the society broken out in the Netherlands brought together the fearless publicist and scholar Dirk Coornhert with the painter + engraver Maarten van Heemskerck, with the former
“ … mak(ing) the problems clear by words … Karel van Mander points out Heemskerck has committed to paper with the crayon Coornhert’s philosophical ideas stamped by reason. A result of this intellectual cooperation was a 4-part print series with the theme Lazarus and the Rich edited in 1550 ”
(Borggrefe in the aforesaid, pp. 140 f., bold type not in the original).
“ In the visual many opportunities of association are hidden ready for revelation by the attentive beholder.
The higher the standard of the artist ,
the more ingenious is the mechanism of the figurative disguise ”
(Dirk De Vos on Compassio and Imitatio as Form , Form as Symbol in Rogier van der Weyden, 2002, p. 142).
While the FIGHTS OF KILLING ANIMALS form in such manner
the intellectual and sociopolitical pre-1789 credo
of a completely new Ridinger ,
so Stubbe celebrates his artistic zenith in the light of Th. 722 :
“ Naturalness and liveliness, which contemporaries praise especially in Ridinger’s engravings, are due to many factors about which the artist – as on the treatment of light (Prince’s Hunting Pleasure/Par Force Hunt) – made up his mind only in the course of his development, or which he was able to perfect in his formative years only … Just because the inclusion of the light into the structure of the complete design … (only) imparts … the dynamic forces to a graphic composition. An example for this:
Belonging to the artist’s later works (1760) the animal fight ‘The Wild Buffalo and the Crocodile’ (plate 34). At it it can be demonstrated easily how light and line contribute by interaction to the vitalization of the appearance. The impressive silhouette of the attacked (bison) … is … optically supported by the rapid light curves of the sheaf of Nile reed … and once more again … ”
Since Stubbe judged on the basis of the engraving worked by Martin Elias, not of the drawn design, this one fully participates in what Stubbe outlines as “Ridinger’s mature art of engraving” in regard of the Par Force Hunt assumed for the mid-’50s :
“ It needs quite a lot of artistic intelligence to achieve this as delicate as animating effect of light. With it, if he knows to handle it, the engraver possesses a decisive medium for one of the most essential effects the art of engraving can actually obtain. ”
So the FIGHTS OF KILLING ANIMALS bundle a choice rarity ,
a credo of contemporary historical style +
an artistic as well as technical zenith
throwing new light onto the co-operation of the Ridingers .
As possibly created in connection with the set Rainer Michaelis sees in the Critical Inventory Catalog of “The German Paintings of the 18th Century” of Staatliche Museen Berlin the fascinating painting “Beasts of Prey and Killed Stag” (Bln. 2002, serial cat. no. 2272, pp. 173 f. with color ills.) acquired there in 1985 from old Leipsic family property. Showing in a rock ambience a couple of lions and tigers fighting for the prey. The sujet of the she-opponents closely related to “The Lioness with Cub Attacked by a Bear” (Th. 718) and that of the males limited with “The Aurochs and the Tiger” (Th. 717), the drawings of both assumed to have been worked in the ’30s with 1747 at the latest, see above.
Offer no. 15,449 / price on application
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Early Greek Philosophy & Other Essays, tr. by Maximilian A. Mügge (The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, vol. II), New York, The Macmillan Comp., 1911, pp. 51 ff.↩
- Thomas Fusenig in the Brake/Antwerp exhibition catalog Hans Vredeman de Vries und die Renaissance im Norden, Munich 2002, cat. no. 123, p. 286↩
- Heiner Borggrefe, Hans Vredeman de Vries, in the Brake/Antwerp exhibition catalog Hans Vredeman de Vries und die Renaissance im Norden edited by him and others, Munich 2002, p. 21↩
- Peter Burke, Louis XIV – The Staging of the Roy Soleil, Berlin 1993↩
(Herr K. O., 6. Februar 2009)