“ The  Great  Sheet  of  Dance  Macabre ”

Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). Dance Macabre. Circular chain dance of nine women & skeletons around opened casket with two skeletons within and without the churchyard wall as centerpiece. In addition to it, placed back, chapel & charnel house (?) along with walls. In the corners the Fall of Man – Calvary – Eternal life & Purgatory , between two text-cartouches. In the outer field surrounded by 12 medallions together with text-cartouches for the dance of the men, separated by 8 (6 varying) vanitas attributes. Mezzotint by Johann Jacob Ridinger (1736 Augsburg 1784). Inscribed: Ioh. Iacob Ridinger sculps. / Ioh. El. Ridinger excud. Aug. Vindel., otherwise as following. 25¾ × 18⅞ in (65.3 × 48 cm).

Th.-Stillfried + Schwarz 1428; Silesian Ridinger collection at Boerner XXXIX, 2032 ( “Extremely rare”, 1885 ! ).

Illustration in L’Art Macabre 2, Yearbook of the European Dance Macabre Society, Dusseldorf 2001, within the contribution here “The Vanitas Symbolism with Joh. El. Ridinger”.

State II (of II?) as the copy in the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung Munich, too. – The copies Stillfried + Schwarz, Boerner and that of the sale Counts Faber-Castell (1958 as

“ The  great  sheet  of  Dance  Macabre / Main sheet ”)

not fixable in their states based on their descriptions. However, the one presented by Patrick Pollefeys on the internet proves to be the earlier, currently suppoesedly first state.

Not in Thienemann and in Dresden, see below, missing in the ample stocks of Weigel (1857) , Coppenrath (1889/90) , Wawra (1890) , 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 plus 470 duplicates + 20 drawings) , Hamminger (1895) , Helbing (1900) , Rosenthal (1940) , and others more.

Typographic & figurative watermark. – Above and on the right fine small margin almost throughout, on the left and below predominantly trimmed on the platemark here 1.5 cm wide anyhow. – Upper half laid by old onto wide-margined laid paper per corner-montage, one of which loosened, causing a repaired tear. Practically not impeding centerfold.

The  very  fine  copy  in  respect  of  printing  +  condition

from a cultivated collection of nuanced chiaroscuro in all parts. And in such a way

of  greatest  rarity

not only on the market, as documented above, but in general. And indeed already in 1675 the expert von Sandrart numbered “neat impressions” of the velvety mezzotint at only “50 or 60 (!). After that, however, the image acquires polish soon for it does not go deep into the copper”. Corresponding to that Thienemann in 1856 (pp. VIII + 270) :

“ The mezzotints are almost not to be acquired on the market anymore … all worked by or after Joh. El. Ridinger are so rare that they are to be found almost only in some public splendid collections. I have found most of the described ones only in the famous Dresden printroom … ”

Yet not even there the one in question here

made  known  only  in  1876  by  Count  Stillfried .

The quotations there not absolutely correct.

the  first  of  the  large-sized  2-sheet  set

with the “Allegory of the Period of Life” as companion piece not present here (Th.-St. + Schwarz 1429; illustration of the copy in Augsburg in L’Art Macabre 2 as above)

as  the  culmination  of  Ridinger’s  vanitates

in updated repetition of an anonymous leaflet of the late 16th or early 17th century, in any case “before 1623” as the

“ demonstrably  earliest  and  best  known  Dance  Macabre  illustration

of  this  kind  in  the  German-language  area ”

(that in this connection in respect of “demonstrable” indeed, nevertheless surely erroneously, is thought only of the succession of that anonymous from the side of the Nuremberg publisher Paulus Fürst is referred to below), namely “that special kind of the dance macabre in which both manners of representation – the dance in circular form and the dance in procession in pairs of the living and the personified dead as the both most important among the dances macabre – are combined” and therewith forms the “one and only figure being able to represent the dance macabre ‘completely’ … at which the chapel with wall on the horizon (whose complex Ridinger has enlarged here by the said second building with its own wall) … is faded in as a third perspective … this all taken from the familiar linear form of the dances macabre printed in books (following the representation on churchyard walls as the origin) … but nevertheless arranged in circular form” (see Imke Lüders, Totenreigen-Totentanz, Totentanzillustrationen auf Flugblättern des Barock und ihre Rezeption, in L’Art Macabre 1, Dusseldorf 2000, along with illustrations mentioned below).

The texts of the cartouches each time in Latin & German versions. – In the centerpiece between Calvary & Eternal life “Christ’s death has ruined death and returned life” & below between Fall of Man & Purgatory “Death and eternal hellish pain has brought about the sin alone”.

The outer field presents clockwise from 1-12 the stations of the social structure of the great hundrum of the end, in the course of which the status symbols lie disrespectfully on the earth. Only the fool has been left cap and bells and the right grips the wand.

Johann Elias Ridinger, Dance Macabre

“ Papa. / Pope. … The pope’s power not withstanding death. // Imperator. / Emperor. … The head of the world falls to death. // Rex. / King. … The crowned head not spared by death. // Cardinalis. / Cardinal. … The cardinal I take home, too. // Episcopus. / Bishop. … I lead him to the churchyard. // Dux. / Duke. … Be gentleman or prince a dead man at last. // Comes. / Count. … Whether count or servant death be in the right. // Nobilis. / Nobleman. … No noble blood is too good for death. // Civis. / Citizen. … No man here has a lasting place. // Rusticus. / Peasant. … The farmer must under death’s foot, too. // Mendicus. / Beggar. / Miles. Soldier. … Soldier, beggar equally have to stand. // Stultus. Fool. / Enfans. Child. … Child and fools together belong to my kingdom. ”

As the essential links should be mentioned above/below middle, each time one beneath the other, timer (12 o’clock 25), hour-glass, death’s head, bones and death’s head with cup/funnel (?) sitting on, bucket with whisk filled with liquid. Left/right middle crossed gravedigger’s tool kit between bier + casket with pall flanked by four chandeliers.

Contrary to the stereotyped model of the leaflet as typical for its age and, more yet, the article itself the phenotype of the Ridinger dance in its 2nd state here corresponds as well with its time as another artistic demand, too. Irrespective of all basic form the individually formed faces are those of living modern figures up to natural hair. But also in other respects this state proves to be both as to time and pictorially as the youngest within the series drewable upon comparatively here with the said leaflet of before 1623 as the first. On the latter see Imke Lüders who presents this probably erroneously as only a replica of the same “of the end of the 17th or early 18th century published by Johann Peter Wolff’s (1655 – after 1702) heirs” in Nuremberg albeit

“ Not unreasonably this dance has been dated in the past at the end of the 16th century for as well the execution of the graphic as the costumes of the persons of quality perfectly allow such an inference. ”

For surely this Wolff heirs “version” is the original one mistaken for lost. In the course of which Imke Lüders only overlooked the use of the publishers to engrave in old plates of others, exchanging if necessary, the own address. With the result that the Wolff dates could irritate her. This shows not at least a comparison with the replica contrastly illustrated by her of the “so-called monogramist ‘J.W.’” – surely the Augsburg art publisher + engraver Jeremias Wolf(f), 1663-1724, to whom Ridinger stood in work contact during his early period – “of the late 17th century” after the engraving published by Fürst (ca. 1605 – 1666) introduced already above, with which this on his part followed to the early original which later has been “copied” by Wolff heirs, too. This replica of the Fürst version by the monogramist worked before that published by Wolff heirs is more modern than the following latter, consequently the origin of that has to be sought in earlier time. The complications following from this reflection, namely especially from the fact that in the Fürst version still lacks the high important attributes of churchyard wall, casket + chapel in the center field, may be in silence here as less interesting for the Ridinger mezzotint.

Of consequence however that Ridinger was acquainted with both the Wolff heirs “replica” of the original version of that novel dance macabre representation and the monogramist’s replica after Fürst, which latter he follows textually predominantly, too. So for instance in the upper text cartouche by “… has ruined Death, and returned Life” (“… zu nicht hat gemacht Den Todt, und SLeben widerbracht”) & in the duke’s medallion “… death at last gets you” (“… dem Tod [with ‘J.W.’ Todt] zletz wirst”), whereas with Wolff heirs it is “… has made, Death and Life …” (“… hat gemacht, den Tod u. das Leben …”) & “… Death at last gets you” (“… Dem Tod zuletz wirst”).

For beyond Ridinger’s already mentioned period adjustment of the figures as not without common practice his version differs, at least in present 2nd state, also elsewhere from both those models. Not only that he shows the inconspicuous chapel of the background with Wolff heirs as situated, like Golgotha, too, somewhat more elevated, but generally shapes it more dominantly, and complements it with the likewise shaped second building with i. a. a cross and adjoining own wall. Within the cartouche above Christ with cross. Beneath it, unintelligible also in its distance to the chapel, a cross amidst an only shadowy suggestion of foliage, inasmuch as imagination is not inclined to see herein a ghostly procession of the dead with the cross at the head. Modified and richer the purgatory figuration. Of rich pithiness and detail finally the building complexes within the medallions. The more elegantly presented casket on the right now flanked by four chandeliers at the expense of the two torches. The former missing with Wolff heirs, yet already present, and indeed in addition to the torches, with the monogramist’s replica, whose casket is still unchangedly chestlike. Contrary to the arrangement of the cartouches of Wolff & replica corresponding with each other in this respect, with present Ridinger copy they are placed analogously to the one in Munich directly against the border.

However, the Pollefeys copy (1st state) still has torches and chandeliers, the casket chestlike, the arrangement of the cartouches à la Wolff heirs & monogramist replica, and indeed modified wigs, yet still no natural hair. – In sum

the  grand  sheet  of  richest  topic  present  here  for  the  first  time .

Offer no. 28,933 / price on application

“ Received the 2 parcels yesterday in A. M. I am very pleased with the books as well as the condition of them. Thank you again … I hope we can do business again in the near future ”

(Mr. L. A. F., March 11 and 1 resp., 2001)


The  Cream  of  the  Day