Ridinger’s  intellectual & sociopolitical  Pre-1789  Credo
and  with  Th. 722
an  artistic  Culmination  of  his  late  Work



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



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

Johann Elias Ridinger, The Furious Leopard lacerating an Ass

“ 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 …

Johann Elias Ridinger, The Aurochs and the Tiger (Fights of Killing Animals)Johann Elias Ridinger, Lioness with Her Cubs attacked by a Bear (Fights of Killing Animals)Johann Elias Ridinger, The Cougar over a Camel (Fights of Killing Animals)Johann Elias Ridinger, The Elephant and the Rhinoceros (Fights of Killing Animals)Johann Elias Ridinger, The Wild Buffalo and the Crocodile (Fights of Killing Animals)Johann Elias Ridinger, The Hippopotamus and the Lion (Fights of Killing Animals)

(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

Johann Elias Ridinger, Lion + Horse

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:

“ A triumphal column represented Alessandro Farnese as Alexander the Great. A second column with Bacchus hinted in this connection surely at the conquest of India traditional by Plutarch. ”

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.

So it is said to the “Horse and the Lion

“ 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 . ”

And belligerent-powerful to “the lioness with cubs attacked by a bear

“ 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 . ”

And jubilating to the “Aurochs (recte the European bison, Bison europaens Ow.) and the Tiger

“ 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

  1. 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.
  2. Thomas Fusenig in the Brake/Antwerp exhibition catalog Hans Vredeman de Vries und die Renaissance im Norden, Munich 2002, cat. no. 123, p. 286
  3. 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
  4. Peter Burke, Louis XIV – The Staging of the Roy Soleil, Berlin 1993

„ danke für die prompte Lieferung der beiden hübschen Cassas-Blätter (von Antiochia). Den Überweisungsauftrag gab ich gestern zur Bank. Viele Grüße und ein schönes Wochenende … “

(Herr K. O., 6. Februar 2009)


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