Rhino “Clara” — Colored
265 Years ago by Ridinger
AS FIRST SCIENTIFIC REPRESENTATION
OF THE RHINOCEROS
( Oudry’s Famous Three-Meter-Oil at Schwerin followed One Year later only )
“ Drawn from Life ”
by which “he countered the one by Dürer as the one hitherto considered unvariedly authoritative by a …
rendering of greater natural truth
adequate to the scientific standards of his time” (Stefan Morét) .
Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). Asiatic Rhinoceros. Before reed and tree scenery sprawled to the left. Colored etching & engraving. Inscribed: RHINOCEROS. / Nasehorn. / Rhinocerot. / Familia III. Dreÿhufige. / Joh. El. Ridinger fec. et exc. A. V. 12⅜ × 8¼ in (31.4 × 21.1 cm).
Thienemann & Schwarz 1028. – IN THE RIDINGERS’ ORIGINAL COLORING from the unnumbered Colored Animal Kingdom created since 1754 and concluded finally posthumously not before 1773 (“Complete copies are next to untraceable”, so Weigel, Art Cat., part XXVIII, Ridinger Appendix 63a as merely 120-sheet torso, 1857 ! , but also just individual plates quite rarely on the market only, at niemeyer’s presently nevertheless the one as the others). – Remaining uncolored contrary to the prospectus, a second edition from the plates shortened even under loss of animals and with modified titling and the Ridinger inscription removed, yet now numbered, was published by Engelbrecht/Herzberg in Augsburg 1824/25.
With watermark C & I Honig below supposedly crowned fleur-de-lis arms as that sturdy Dutch quality paper Ridinger used in line with his preamble to the Principal Colors of Horses
“on account of the fine illumination” for the colored works
“as for this purpose it is the most decent and best”. – Margins on three sides 2-2.7 cm, below 4.7 cm wide. – The far left paper edge with tiny/little brown spots hardly worth mentioning, otherwise perfect.
Depicted the rare Indian one-horned rhinoceros “Maid Clara”
(Rhinoceros indicus Cuv. / R. unicornis L.), which Douwe Mout van der Me(e)r, master of the Knapenhoff of the East India Company, had brought from Asia to Holland in 1741 and shown in Europe until her death in 1758 (so Morét in Catalog Darmstadt; Rieke-Müller in [The XVIIIth Cent.] “About 1741/48”). In the course of which
“ as a skilful showman he published fair flyers and engravings with descriptions (‘about 1745 he probably was the first who had his name been mentioned on engravings of the rhinoceros ‘Maid Clara’ by which he deliberately stepped out of anonymity’, Rieke-Müller) … Interestingly enough that for the greater part of these graphic depictions of the rhinoceros worked in the 1740s one orientated oneself by Dürer’s famous woodcut of a rhinoceros of 1515 (Hollstein, ill., & Meder 273; Catalog Darmstadt p. 24 with ill.). This is not surprising in that Dürer’s depiction was copied again and again in the zoological works up to the 18th century and therefore had a lasting effect on the idea of the animal’s appearance.
By his rhinoceros Ridinger now countered the one by Dürer
by a rendering of greater natural truth drawn from life and adequate to the scientific standards of his time ”
(Morét), after he had “seen her alive … at Augsburg” at her presentation May/June 1748 “when I
drew her in (6) different positions from life ,
in the height I found her 5½. in the length 11½. feet, of color she was dark brown below at the trunk at the breast and in the depth of the folds superimposed upon each other she is broken reddish …” to add her, standing to the left, hot off the press to his Representation of the Most Wondrous Deer as well as Other Particular Animals published in numbers as first scientific portrayal of the rhinoceros and therefore a milestone of zoological knowledge (Th. 295; cf. nos. 50-55 of the Ridinger appendix of the catalog of the bequeathed drawings of 1869). But for now just in black & white !
By which the matter would not have to rest, when from 1754 on his Colored Animal Kingdom was published, in which he now
published two of his further Clara drawings for the first time .
And now in color !
Present Clara, sprawled, and Clara leaping to the right. The latter faithfully with but one horn, while the master’s sons, true to their preamble (page 23)
“ Some of these animals have but one horn ,
yet some have two horns on their nose ”
gave the sprawled one a second one, what Thienemann criticized severely:
“ It is common knowledge that there are several rhinoceri with two horns, but all have a different skin, color, not the folds, like ours … Also we find the drawing, from which this plate is worked, in the Weigel Collection, and in it but one horn … Mart. El. Ridinger thus has ventured to bestow the animal with two horns of his own imagination, which is quite wrong and contrary to nature. ”
Of preparatory drawings Thienemann, drawing upon Weigel’s inventory, still mentions 2 sheet in 1856 (p. 279, gg), the 1869 estate catalog of Weigel’s Collection of Original Drawings, however, per Ridinger appendix 709 but one anymore (A Lying Rhinoceros, black chalk).
In line with its scientific rank,
is in all her varieties thematically as artistically
a highly sought-after collector’s item .
So the preparatory drawing intended for the transfer to the plate for the b&w sheet Th. 295 (Weigel 54) rocketed during its sale at Sotheby’s, London, 1991 from estimated 2-3,000 £ to 20,000 £ for the Ratjen Collection, Vaduz (acquired by The National Gallery of Art Washington in 2007). It originated from the 95-sheet drawing corpus of the Ridinger collection Counts Faber-Castell, which in their sale 1958 was paid for as a whole, including two further rhinoceros drawings (!), at 7800 (!) German marks. And still more recently in a German sale a copy of the b&w print Th. 295 was bid, doubling the estimate, to a final price of well 1850 euro!
Appropriately spectacular (“Spectacles must be”, Maria Theresa, “half resigning”) at that time the presentation of “Maid Clara” at Augsburg, which latter at the same time was paid reverence to as metropolis :
“ ‘Strange’ animals had … a special cultural value beyond the courtly life, too, if they contributed to the increase of the attraction of a metropolis like Vienna and the amusement of its citizens … ‘All diversions which delight the senses in an innocent manner … belong to the comforts and advantages of big cities, making the stay pleasant for both residents and strangers’, it is said in a legal treatise ”
(Annelore Rieke-Müller in “‘a Guy with Wild Animals’ – On the Social Position and the Self-conception of Animal Leaders in the 18th Century” in The XVIIIth Century, as above, wherein R.-M. also calls attention to the competition of such urban events towards the courts, just as then the French court would have acquired “Maid Clara” only too gladly for its menagerie at Versailles, yet had to forgo due to the great costs for such exotic animals, 100,000 ecus for the same, 2000 guilders for an elephant in 1690.
Appropriately the 2-months show then was one of the really big local events for Augsburg. For according to Rieke-Müller “CLARA” was
the one and only rhinoceros of the 18th century
on the European continent !
The aspect of an “increasingly natural history curiosity” becoming in vogue claimed by R.-M. for the 2nd half of the century and proven per 1775 ff. Ridinger had incidentally anticipated – as just another example – already 1744 per title to his Fable set.
As on the other hand by his Elephant and the Rhinoceros (Th. 721) he confirms the ancients with Pliny at the head, according to which due to his horn the rhinoceros ultimately dominates in the fight of the in principle equal colossal pachyderms, appropriately dreaded by the elephant. Documented the wish of King Manuel I of Portugal for an exhibition fight between an elephant and the rhinoceros he had received from Goa in 1515. The former, albeit still young of age, bolted when only catching sight of the latter.
Present pleasant picture therefore – “It is said, too, that the rhinoceros … were cheerful, too”, so Dürer in his broadsheet of Manuel’s rhinoceros, though obviously enough not rendered from life – of highly weighty content. Ridinger — artist & educationalist. And anticipator, again, of the morrow. For what stands for the Epoch of Sturm und Drang, is to be found already in his 8-sheet series of the Fights of Killing Animals, dating back to the 1730s (ll. 1-4, with text added by Brockes, † 1747) and held back for decades with but too good reason (Th. 716-723, complete of greatest rarity, here available). An unrivalled attack on despotism and abuse of power in a social system at which he hurls his and Brockes’ beacon for freedom and humanity. For what also, although as mitigated own text for the late plates of the 1760s, the prelude to the Elephant and the Rhinoceros stands:
“ So big and mighty is no creature in the world ,
That has not his enemy , who is a match for him .”
For full text along with illustration see Ridinger Catalog Darmstadt, 1999, IV.6, page 95.
Offer no. 15,870 / EUR 1100. / export price EUR 1045. (c. US$ 1263.) + shipping
Ridinger’s Colored Animal Kingdom in Original Coloring
“ … Thank you again for your considered thoughts. I am interested in the ‘Clara’ piece. Please describe the process for completing a transaction for #15,275 ”
(Mr. M. P., December 8, 2008)