Anno 1748 during the Months of May + June
“ MAID CLARA ”
was to be seen alive in Augsburg
thus she could be “Drawn from Life” by Ridinger
as the First Scientific Depiction
of the Rhinoceros
by which “he Opposed the One by Dürer (as the Standard Illustration up to that Time) to a Depiction
of Greater Reality of Nature ” (Stefan Morét) .
Ridinger, Johann Elias (Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767). (Anno 1748 during the Months of May and June this Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros indicus Cuv. / R. unicornis L.) was to be seen alive at Augsburg just as in the most distinguished cities of Germany thus I could draw it from life … .) A One-horned Rhinoceros in its piebald shield standing in front to the left. In the background a lake and palms before a hilly landscape. On the right a steep behind bushes. Etching and engraving. (1748.) Inscribed: 53. / J. El. Ridinger ad vivum del. fec. et excud. A. V., otherwise in German as above and below. 34.4 x 28 cm.
Thienemann + Schwarz 295; Reich auf Biehla Collection 60; Ridinger Catalogue Darmstadt, 1999, III.11 with ills.; publications of the ridinger gallery niemeyer 20, 1998, no. 29 with ills.; (The XVIIIth Century) XXIV, 2, pp. 163 ff. – Missing in the Silesian Ridinger collection at Boerner XXXIX (1885). – Sheet 53 of the Wondrous Stags and Other Animals.
AS THE FIRST SCIENTIFIC ILLUSTRATION OF A RHINOCEROS
A MILESTONE OF ZOOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE
with a detailed inscribed explanation to largeness and colouring :
“ (Was to be seen alive in Augsburg just as in the most distinguished cities of Germany thus I could draw it in its several positions from life. I found measurements of 5½ feet in height and 11½ feet in length. His colour is dark-brown except for the bottom of the abdomen, the thorax, and the depth of the overlapping folds where it is broken reddish. On its nature and general structure Dr. Parson, an Englishman, has sent a natural history to Mr. Folckes, knight and president of the English academy, which is of quite a different quality than the illustrations he enclosed.) ”
Depicted is the rare one-horned Indian rhinoceros “Maid Clara”
Douwe Mout van der Me(e)r, master of the Knapenhoff of the East India Company, had brought along from Asia to Holland in 1741 to show it in Europe until her death in 1758 (so Morét; Rieke-Müller in Das XVIII. Jhdt.: about 1741/48). In the course of which
“ as a skilful showman he published fair flyers and engravings with descriptions (‘about 1745 probably he was the first who let his name be mentioned on engravings of the rhinoceros “Maid Clara” by which deliberately stepping out of anonymity’, Rieke-Müller) … Of interest that for the greater part of these graphical depictions of the rhinoceros worked in the 1740s one orientated oneself by Dürer’s famous woodcut of a rhinoceros of 1515 (Hollstein 273 with ills.; Meder 273; Catalogue Darmstadt p. 24 with ills.). That is small wonder in so far as Dürer’s depiction (worked not from life) was imitated on and on in the zoological works up to the 18th century and thus had influenced lastingly the idea of the appearance of the animal. At this stage with his rhinoceros
Ridinger now opposed the one by Dürer
to a depiction of greater reality of nature drawn from life and thus coming up to the scientific demands of his time ”
Worked after the side-inverted black chalk drawing no. 54 of the Ridinger appendix of the 1869 Weigel catalogue of the left drawings with inscription specifying i. a. that he had drawn the animal in six different positions. The Weigel numbers 50-55 mentioned also by Th. IX, 11 should be those six drawings. Belonging to this complex furthermore the three drawings Weigel 707/09, one of which dated 1754, and the two pencil outlines Th. XII, 7, one of these should be the drawing of the Berlin Printroom (Bock, 1921, 8437) shown in Darmstadt (III.12 with ills.). – Following its zoological rank
in all its varieties is both thematically and artistically a much wanted collector’s object .
So the above-mentioned preparatory drawing Weigel 54 worked for transfer to the printing-plate rocketed by the Vaduz Ratjen Collection (acquired by The National Gallery of Art Washington in 2007) from 2-3 thousand pound to 20,000 pound stg. when it was sold by auction at Sotheby’s in 1991. It belonged to the three rhinoceros drawings of the 95-sheet Faber-Castell corpus of Ridinger drawings sold as a whole for 7,800 German mark only when this famous Ridinger collection was sold at auction in 1958.
Correspondingly spectacularly (“Spectacles must be”, Maria Theresia, half-resigning) the presentation of “Maid Clara” in Augsburg, which last-named therewith was paid the reverence as metropolis, too :
“ ‘Strange’ animals have … a special cultural value beyond the courtly living, too, if they contributed to the heightening of the attraction of a metropolis … and to the amusement of its citizens … ‘All diversions which enjoy the minds harmlessly belong among the comforts and advantages of large towns making pleasantly the stay to residents and strangers’ as it’s the meaning of a legal paper (of 1759) ”
(Annelore Rieke-Müller in “‘a Guy with Wild Animals’ – To the Social Position and Conscious Content of Animal leaders in XVIIIth Century” in Das XVIII Jhdt. as above, wherein R.-M. points out also to the competition’s situation of such urban events opposite to the courts, as the French would acquire “Maid Clara” just with the greatest pleasure as
“ the one and only rhinoceros of the 18th century on the European continent ”
(Rieke-Müller) for its menagery in Versailles if the costs for such exotic specialties would not be so exorbitant, e.g. 100,000 ecus for Clara, 2000 guilders for an elephant in 1690. That aspect of an increasing thirst for natural knowledge by the way R.-M. claims for the 2nd half of the century and supports by documentaries per 1775 ff. Ridinger anticipated already per title to his Fable Suite of 1744).
On the left within the cloud formations a hardly noticeable weak box pleat coming already from printing. The side margins with only 2-2.5 cm somewhat smaller, but above and below with 5.8 + 8.4 cm resp. finely wide.
Offer no. 15,275 / sold
“ Thank you Mr. Niemeyer – I will take it! … It should look very nice in my new office. Best regards ”
(Mr. J. R. L., January 6, 2006)