Described for the First & Last Time 161 Years Ago

The Monumental Mezzotint Set Th. 1127-30

as Undreamt , Unparalleled Event

Johann Elias Ridinger (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). Hunting Scenes. Set of 4 sheet. Mezzotints by or for Johann Andreas Pfeffel I or II (Bischoffingen/Altbreisach 1674 – Augsburg 1748 and 1715 Augsburg 1768 resp.). Inscribed: Ioh(ann)(.) Elias(.) Ridinger pinx(it). / I. A. Pfeffel exc(ud[it])(.) Aug. Vind., otherwise in Latin-French-German as below. 19⅝-19⅞ × 28¾-29 in (49.9-50.5 × 73.1-73.8 cm).

Thienemann 1127-30 (“Fine work”, 1856). – Not in Schwarz (Katalog einer Ridinger-Sammlung [Ritter von Gutmann Collection], 2 vols., 1910; vol. II with the “engravings and mezzotint[s] unbeknown to Thienemann and Stillfried”) and Schwerdt (1928) and

missing then also in the collection and sales catalogs

so indispensable for Ridinger as

Weigel, Art Stock Catalog I, pt. I-XXVIII (the latter as additional Ridinger appendix; 1856/57), Silesian Ridinger collection, Boerner XXXIX (1885), Coppenrath (1889 & 1890), C. J. Wawra, Vienna, Katalog einer schönen Sammlung von Handzeichnungen (234 in 146 lots) und Kupferstichen Joh. El. Ridinger’s aus dem Besitze eines bekannten Sammlers (1890; auction sale), Georg Hamminger, market sweeper par excellence, Hugo Helbing Auction Sale XXXV (1895), Theodor Reich auf Biehla, Boerner LV, (1894; “none … of the collections come up for public sale in a long while … can compete anywhere near in regard of completeness (1266 sheet of c. 1600 beside c. 470 duplicates, 20 drawings) and quality … with present one”), Hugo Helbing, Arbeiten von J. E. und M. E. Ridinger, stock catalog XXXIV, 1554 items of complete sets, individual sheets and duplicates (1900), Jacques Rosenthal/Hans Koch, Johann Elias Ridinger. Radierungen – Schabkunst. Jagddarstellungen – Tiere – Landschaften – Darstellungen des täglichen Lebens (1940; listing 126, 404 items), Collection Counts Faber-Castell (1958; 106 “drawings – many sets – engravings and mezzotints. In rare completeness and quality”), Radulf Count of Castell-Rüdenhausen with especially mezzotint top trouvailles (2005).

Just as in the retrospective exhibitions accompanied by profound catalogs

of the Municipal Art Collections Augsburg to the 200th anniversary of death (1967), the 18-months touring exhibition in Poland on the eve of the 300th birthday (1997/98), the 2-months special exhibition as conclusion of the 300th birthday (1999) of the Museum Hunting Seat Kranichstein (Darmstadt) and, based on the latter two, both the one of the Emsland Museum at Clemenswerth Castle (2000, 3 months) and the Meiningen Museums at Elisabethenburg Castle (2002, 10 weeks, by which “a rather intense highlight [is] thrown at an artist, whom research …

has to rediscover in his full impact yet ”) ,

the Museum of the Teutonic Knights at Bad Mergentheim (2003, 3 months).

Quite uniform even deep velvety qualities

as with regard to the delicate mezzotint manner especially worth emphasizing and generally just for technical reasons frequently so unobtainable for the collector. For the mezzotint plates – so the expert von Sandrart 1675 – only allow for about “50 or 60 clean prints … Afterwards yet (the image) wears off soon as it does not go deep into the copper”. So Thienemann, too, stated then already 160 years ago generally:

“ The mezzotints are hardly found in the trade … anymore …

(A)ll mezzotints created by and after Joh. El. Ridinger (are) so rare that they are to be found almost only in some public splendid print rooms ”

(pages VIII & 270, spacing not in the original).

Here then originating from an English collection with its note “Set (of) 4” along with cipher in pencil on the back of all four sheets and additionally on the boar sheet

“ Very Fine / £ 12 17 0 ”

Entered here from the same prior possession the boar sheet of Ridinger’s Imperials (Th. 68, see below) with provenance Dukes of Arenberg (Lugt 567), of Lower Rhine-Westphalia-Belgium, in the oldest line harking back to the 12th century with Arenberg (Aremberg) in the district Adenau/Ahr as ancestral seat, from whose gigantic print collection 40000 (sic!) sheet in 669 lots were sold at auction in London in 1902. For the by far larger part split among English, American, and German trade, the part captured by the house of Gutekunst in Stuttgart alone staged a separate sale the other year.

With 7-20 mm white paper margin around. In this several small tears, mostly professionally done of old, of which but a few still extend barely perceivably into the subject or caption. Likewise not perceivable in the subject a certain crumpiness on the back, probably originating already from printing, and a larger water stain in the lateral part of the roe sheet. In such a way, however,

of downright extraordinarily fine preservation

as quite especially worth mentioning with these oversizes.

By image dimensions still surpassing in width by about 2 cm the imperial stag-boar pendants Th. 67/68 etched by Ridinger himself and in height only 1 cm behind, present four sheets rank among the largest in the œuvre. What by the way has to be amended to the effect that Schwerdt III, 149 records as what has to be described as practically a unique here not provable anymore since 1939 a St. Hubert after Johann Caspar Sing (Braunau/Inn 1651 – Munich 1729), with 33½ × 24⅜ in (85 × 61.8 cm) surpassing present sheets once more. Showing “only” Ridinger’s “excudit” as publisher, it should be a genuine work of his nonetheless. However, with 29¾ × 36⅛ in (75.5 × 91.8 cm) sheet size here actually the most monumental sheet of the œuvre, albeit still engraved by third party, is the early Siege and Conquest of Halicarnassus (Th. 917) from the Alexander cycle.

Here then in detail

Johann Elias Ridinger, The Shy Roe

Bienqu’un Chevreul innocent et timide
Aussi-tôt qu’ilse croit en danger il court vite;
Il n’echapera par pourtant son triste sort,
Quand un Chasseur adroit le voit et blesse à mort.

The shy roe cannot escape Death
Albeit it is quick on the feet;
For mostly it will trouble itself for nothing,
As the hunter just shoots it with his gun.

A couple roes flies along a clearing in the woods while on the right the two hunters – one kneeling – just fire.

Johann Elias Ridinger, The Wild Boar

On pour fuit par les chiens ls sanglier farouche,
Et c’est pourquoi on dresse très souvent des embouches,
Il est perdu toujours bienqu’il avec sa dent
Blesse se ennemis hardis et se defend.

By shooting and stabbing the wild boar
With hounds full of heat and fire is pursued,
Quite often his sharp tusk indeed seeks revenge,
Yet, before he knows it, he is brought to Death.

At the edge of the wood in the mountains five hounds, one at the boar’s neck, drive the tusker in full cry towards the two hunters. The one in front expecting him with the boar spear while the other aims the gun. Far right a third keeps a striated boar hound – comparable with the bear-biter Th. 1055 of the Molosser type from the Colored Animal Kingdom – forcefully back.

Johann Elias Ridinger, The Wild Bear

L’ours s’il et en danger se defend vaillamment,
Et si dans la forêt les chiens le poursuivent,
Il en est bien en rage, il les blessera à mort,
Et il’en même temps à un si triste sort.

The wild bear is pursued by the hounds,
And many a one is mangled rather badly by him;
But soon he finally has met his Death himself,
Provided the Polack has stabbed him with his spear.

In a cave the bear has seized two hounds while himself at bay or seized by four more, with one of the hunters thrusting the spear into his side. A further hunter with spear at the entrance to the cave, a third one in the background, drawing the short sword.

Johann Elias Ridinger, The Quail

La caille se cache et veut être solitaire,
Un paitre tranquille toujours est son affaire:
Mais l’Epagneul la chasse et l’oiseleur est prêt,
Pour la prendre bientôt, il luy tend son filet.

The quail indeed is used to love solitude,
And wants to be in quiet pasture with her breed;
Yet by the spaniel she is discovered soon enough,
And falls into the net, before she knows it.

In open undulated landscape the spotted pointer stands the quail half hidden in the grass. Two hunt grooms hold the net ready, behind the master with the hawk on his fist.

To which of the two Pfeffel Father and Son the works have to be attributed to must be left undecided. Beside portraits and the collaboration for the Scheuchzer Bible published by the father Thieme-Becker mention landscapes for the son what might suggest his working of present sheets with their rich landscape accessories, too. For the father ornaments, arts-and-crafts designs, architectural pieces and representations of festivities are stated.

Whereas Nagler – generally not differentiating between works by father and son – notes explicitly that the former has worked “with the chisel and in mezzotint” (spacing not in the original) and values the son’s works as inferior to his father’s.

An attribution to the father as an imperial court engraver besides is also supported by the Latinized inscriptions “Iohann Elias Ridinger” and “I. A. Pfeffel” as known for Ridinger pre-eminently for earliest works still engraved by third party, and early genuine works like the animal pieces after Roos from between 1724 and 1728 or the Princes’ Pleasure of 1729. Besides, in later years Ridinger has painted barely to not at all, yet the “pinxit” (“has painted”) here refers to indeed such masters. So the master himself by letter of June 29, 1748 to Johann Georg Wille in Paris:

“ Had the great heap of my works not inhibited me … although I am even more burdened as I work on 4 tableau … for the Russian court … Have never ever thought I would take up the brush once more again yet since 2 years ago I have sent a couple squares to this court so therefore I have been approached about that so that I could not evade to accept it ”

(Decultot, Espagne & Werner [ed.], Joh. Gg. Wille, Briefwechsel, Tübingen 1999, pp. 76 f.).

The practically unique rarity documented since old

of not only the set, but the individual sheets, too, here moreover exponentiated twice by – it shall be repeated – the

quite uniform even velvety printing quality

as reserved for but a few copies of mezzotint

at moreover almost immaculate preservation .

And all this with wonderful chiaroscuro . And eye-catching landscapes .

As then already 1901 Ernst Welisch qualified Ridinger as the indisputably “most important Augsburg landscapist of (his) time … albeit he is known mainly as animal painter”.

Offer no. 16,186 / price on application