Johann Elias Ridinger , Painter at Augspurg

Johann Elias Ridinger, Hippocrene (detail)

and the
Muse of Painting

Johann Elias Ridinger (Bergmüller)

“ (R)epresent my place and point out to them

that I work not as a virtuoso in engraving

but as a painter …

I regret

that I could not yet get in copper

where I have come to in drawing

But I try to do what I do

with painterish reason … ”

12 February 1747 towards Johann Georg Wille,

quoted from Décultot, Espagne and Werner [ed.], Joh. Gg. Wille / Briefwechsel, 1999, p. 72

Johann Elias Ridinger

Ulm 1698 – Augsburg 1767

Johann Elias Ridinger, Hippocrene



The Gift of Water

inspired by Watteau

The Hippocrene. The Horse or Muse Fountain at the Parnassus or Helicon as column of water rising up like a dome. With fountain architectonics, here the overgrown arch of a grotto, dominated by the fountain and Muse horse Pegasus and populated by the nine Muses as the guardians of the spring as well as river gods as the equally mandatory attributes of the fountain. Etching with engraving. Before c. 1746. 13¾ × 11¼ in (34.9 × 28.7 cm).

Augsburg Art Collections, Exhibition Catalog KUNSTREICH – Acquisitions 1990-2000, 2001, no. 101 with full-page & 4 detail ills.

“ A fine enrichment

of Ridinger’s œuvre …

to celebrate and document the 300th

(is) so splendid and charming

since so appropriate …

Especially impressing …

the modest number of prints ”

Gode Krämer

custodian at Kunstsammlungen Augsburg, 1998

One of six Roman numbered I/VI preferential prints in reddish black on heavy laid paper. Besides ten ordinary prints in black numbered Arabic 1/10 on the same as well as some épreuves d’éditeur from the uncleaned plate, also in additional colors and on further papers, all with the autograph signature of ridinger dealer lüder h. niemeyer together with the date of February 16th, 1998, as the master’s 300th birthday. Two prints remaining with the printer without signature. With the exception of the latter two all with comprehensive stamp to this edition on the back. – Roman I and one of the épreuves belonging to the complete set of the original copper printing plates of the series of the Deer’s Four Times of Day created about 1746 (Th. 238-241), the Evening plate of which revealed on its back during cleaning work the Hippocrene as

composition apparently dismissed by the master

Johann Elias Ridinger, Hippocrene

and here described for the very first time .

Thematically merely close, but not related to the group of the Fountains Thienemann (878-881) called “Mythological Pyramids”, it is an autonomous work.

Mythological background of the time of interest here is that when Pegasus “silenced the Helicon rising up to heaven in ecstasy about the Muses’ songs by a hoofbeat and by this at the same time

Johann Elias Ridinger, Evening of the Deer

A key image

of his physico-theological or nature-philosophical stance is the

Evening from the set of the Deer’s Four Times of Day

who are sunk in the sight of the evening starlit sky ,

what has to be regarded as proof for R.s conviction that nature were a

revelation of the Lord’s wisdom , almightiness and graciousness ”

U. Heise
Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon, vol. 98 (2017), pp. 472 f.

kicked forth the enchanting

Fountain of the Muses Hippocrene ”

(Meyers Konv.-Lex., 4th ed., XII, 804, Pegasus/Horse of the Spring). Immediately to one side of the horse

– not even designated as autonomous – the Muse of Painting

with maulstick and palette with brushes in the left and with the right pressing a groundhigh slab to herself, while Thalia as later general patroness of the theater – here with the comic mask, yet in the raised right – occupies the other. What conceptually leads to Hogarth’s later final self-portrait amalgamating the contents of both as painter with palette & brush before the canvas “on which he paints the personification of his artistic inspirations, the comic muse with the mask” (Hogarth catalog Zurich, 1983, p. 18 with ills. pp. 17 & 135, dating the painting at c. 1757, followed by the engraving March 29, 1758).

On the same level outwards Aphrodite casting the horoscope and Clio as heraldress of history.

After two bird-shaped gargoyles held by putti – two reptile-like ones then far down at the bottom – the other five Muses, partly bathing their feet, follow. The two front right might be Erato related especially to erotic poetry, here without attributes only standing and propping herself up, and Terpsichore responsible for dance & choir singing, but then with plectrum only. Of the two located on the left one with yardstick. In between on the water group of river gods.

The self-identification in the Muse of Painting

is unmistakable and leads directly to his own ex-libris ,

Schwarz 1569 with illustration. On this in front of a herma of Minerva as patroness of painters, too, a boy rests on the maulstick and holds a high slab likewise standing on the ground with the inscription

“ Nulla dies sine linea “ — No day without a brush stroke

as expression of a thusly absolute necessity of life. Accordingly flanked by the instruments of engraving including plate and the utensils for painting.

Johann Elias Ridinger: I regard as my masters
Johann Elias Ridinger, Letter to Johann Georg Wille, Paris, of June 21, 1765 (detail)

For how much the latter constituted for the master’s artistic impetus, arose only – and probably for the first time – as a result from the occupation with and finally analysis of relevant passages from Ridinger’s correspondence with Johann Georg Wille. So towards the end of days he summarizes by here available letter to this of June 21, 1765 which names among the great of animal painting he had felt obliged to in particular, as there were François Desportes, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Frans Snyders, Jan Fyt, Carl Ruthart, Adam Frans van der Meulen, (supposedly Charles) Parrocel.

Characteristic for Ridinger’s self-conception as artist

the mention of exclusively painters as his paragons, as he then writes to Wille already 18 years before and thus about the time of the creation of the Hippocrene:

“ … so it will give me great pleasure to paint if my humble work is considered only slightly well by those spirited minds of the Frenchmen, represent my place and point out to them that I work not as a virtuoso in engraving

but as a painter …

I regret that I could not yet get in copper where I have come to in drawing But I try to do what I do with painterish reason … ”

(February 12, 1747, cited from Décultot et al., op. cit., p. 72).

Johann Elis Ridinger, Painter in Augsburg, 1744
Title sheet to the first edition of the Instructive Fables from the Kingdom of the Animals, 1744 (detail)

And in this context, hitherto passed utterly unheeded here, too, the title sheets to the most varied sets come alive, starting with the New Animal Sketch Book and the Various Representations of Some Figures from Antiquity useful for History of 1728 and the Princes’ Hunting Pleasure of 1729 as the earliest now published by himself, too, in which he, just as with the Design of Several Animals (1738-40), the Representation of the Fair Game with their added Tracks and Traces (1740), the fables of 1744, the Design of Several Horses (and Mules) (1754/5), states

Johann Elias Ridinger , Painter at Augspurg .

Only with the appointment as Protestant director of the academy in 1759 the addition “and engraver” appears with the further amendment of “also Director of the Augsburg Academy”. So with the Representation and Description of those Trained and War Horses (1760) and the Fair Game chased by the Various Kinds of Hounds of the following year as the Roman and Greek War Folks, too, and continued by the sons in the posthumous title sheets to the Most Wondrous Deer and other Particular Animals and the first part of the colored Animal Kingdom. Just as then Johann Jacob, too, inscribed the 1767 posthumous late portrait of the father at the drawing table by the window of the study as the most important one among the portraits with

Jean Elie Ridinger Peintre et Graveur et Directeur de l’Académie d’Augsbourg

“ Jean Elie Ridinger Peintre et Graveur et Directeur de l’Académie d’Augsbourg ”

And still in the Rule of Death – Omnia mihi subdita Stillfried-Schwarz 1427 we encounter the painter’s utensils. Now amongst the junk, albeit – in contrast to Hogarth’s Bathos of 1764 – not broken. Yet again neighbored by a large stone slab the master indeed uses in the conventional work, too. By which both ex-libris and rule of death turn out as ultimate support for the

authenticity of the Hippocrene

and by this at the same time also answer the question of origin for the group of Fountains Thienemann left undecided, who as regards Ridinger’s but “excudit” adhered to the wide-spread, yet here conclusively refuted assumption “We therefore not even know for sure if and what part our master has in these”.

All this embedded into the reflection of one of the most famous fountains created in mythological distance by the deities

“ for the good and benefit of man ”

which they had been taken care of as something exceedingly valuable by the nymphs or muses who alone were capable at all to direct to the spring

“ the powers of earth

which were regarded as the cause of the inspiring and healing effect

of water ”

(Meyers, op. cit., XIII, 511 f., Quellenkultus/Cult of Springs).

And is regarded so until today and used in most manifold kinds. Therewith, however, a


as one of the most precious & delicious gifts of our earth .

Created by one of the greatest artists close to nature in fine nearness to Antoine Watteau’s drawings corresponding with each other, The Bower (Washington, National Gallery of Art) and The Temple of Diana (New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library) of about 1714, which Gabriel Huquier engraved in copper for the drawing part (1726) of the Recueil Jullienne.

Antoine Watteau, Bower
The Bower
(National Gallery of Art, Washington)

Where the different design of the sides of the Temple of Diana invited Huquier to work two separate etchings after this: beside the Temple of Diana the Temple of Neptune (Nagler, Huquier, 41 f.). As then water gardens are present also with the Bower, too, of which Ridinger cites two little water spillers by said water spitting birds held by putti.

As evidenced by other examples documented here mostly for the first time, too, Ridinger was decidedly intimately familiar with the Recueil Jullienne and so drew his inspiration for his Hippocrene from the above models there, albeit with quite a different result. See their partly color illustrations at Pierre Rosenberg & L. A. Prat, Antoine Watteau / Catalogue raisonné des dessins, 1996, pp. 370-373, 1248/49 & 1402/03 and in the catalogs of the touring exhibitions Washington etc. 1984/85, pp. 140-144, & New York etc. 1999/2000, pp. 108-111.

The Fountains

Johann Elias Ridinger, Fontaine de Persèe et d’AndromedeJohann Elias Ridinger, Fontaine d’Hercule victorieux

Johann Elias Ridinger, Fontain d’Atlas et d’HerculeJohann Elias Ridinger, Fontaine de la Victoire d’Apollon sur le Serpent Python

Set of 4 sheet in etching with engraving. Inscribed: Ioh. Elias Ridinger excud. Aug. Vind., otherwise as following. 13⅞ × 11¼ in (35.3 × 28.7 cm) (1) and subject size 13⅞-14 × 11⅛ in (35.2-35.4 × 28.2-28.3 cm) (3) resp. – Thienemann & Schwarz 878-881.

Three sides with 3-4, below 13 mm wide little margin around the full platemark (1) and trimmed within the platemark, but on three sides with fine(est) margin around the edge of the image, below with 3-10 mm below the second line of text and traces in points of previous mounting on blue paper on the back resp.

Offer no. 14,873 / EUR  2000. / export price EUR  1900. (c. US$ 2394.) + shipping

Almost of the same size as the Watteaus, for Ridinger’s Hippocrene applies what Margaret Morgan Grasselli points out in the 84 catalog to the former’s Bower:

“ This drawing … at the same time is

one of his most accomplished .

Besides it is one of the relatively few ornamental drawings (to which also the Hounds and Death Game in Rotterdam belong, p. 106) which are to be ascribed to him with absolute certainty.

Each smallest detail of this drawing indicates that it originates from the time of his greatest maturity: the variety, the ingenuity … the perfect design … the distinct energy which penetrates the whole work. ”

And analogously finally

“ … since we have no indications at all for a painting hereto, we could proceed on the assumption that Watteau had never followed up the project. ”

Ridinger’s Hippocrene supposedly then here for the very first time

published in besides elitist tiny worldwide edition only. Not least as further example of his mastership in imaginative variation entirely unappreciated in the past as, equally related to Watteau, documented here as ascertained for his Self-Portrait in the Wood (Th. XIX, 1) or quite in superior style for his Cythera Lady (Schwarz 1471), doubtless true, too, for his Lady with the Mask (Schwarz 1458). Representing mature art fed by old and great tradition.

“ Great artists seldom cite one another literally. In some cases they pay homage to a predecessor by alluding unobtrusively in their own creations to other ideas ”

(Dirk De Vos, Rogier van der Weyden, 1999, p. 36, with the reference to Dieric Bouts [about 1420 – 1475] as the probably first example of “such a fruitful adoption”).

For the purpose of matching the size of the other three plates of the set of the Deer’s Four Times of Day the composition of present work on the back might have been reduced marginally. Its printing besides took place with all the due consideration for the deer scenery on the other side. A handling which inevitably should have been considered as dispensable in the reverse case, so that the Hippocrene side was not perfectly untouched anymore. Nonetheless a quite attractive visual effect on the wall, too.

And last, but not least, beyond all the above-mentioned the evidently intended, yet just so evidently ran offside and ergo dismissed reverence for

Augsburg’s Saint Ulrich

as the water and source patron of the city

by his constant presence in the grandiose Basilica St. Ulric and Afra (see i. a. the corresponding fine woodcut with the Saint in the Hortus Conclusus before a landscape with crosier and book with fish in “Gloriosorum christi confessorum Udalrici & Symperti: nec non beatissimæ martyris Aphræ, Augustanæ sedis patronorum quam fidelissimorum historiæ” by Berno von Reichenau and Adilbertus von Augsburg, Augsburg 1516, but also Gabriel Spitzel’s portrait of Johann Christoph Thenn, protestant parson of the Ridinger period at St. Ulric and acc. to Th. translator of the French text to the Colored Animal Kingdom, worked in mezzotint by Johann Jacob Ridinger).

Reverence left undone yet also towards the city’s three famous fountains built between 1593 & 1602 “as main ornaments of Augsburg” (Meyers Konv.-Lex., 4th ed., II [1888], 87/II). – See on this the master’s 4-sheet Set of the Fountains (Th. 878-881).

With Brush & Palette

Johann Elias Ridinger Pictor et Scalptor Augustanus
Pictor et Scalptor Augustanus

Mezzotint by Johann Jacob Haid (Kleineislingen 1704 – Augsburg 1767). Inscribed: I. G. Bergmüller invent. / I. Iac. Haid ad vivum pinx. fecit et excud. A. V., otherwise as above. 15⅝ × 10½ in (39.7 × 26.6 cm). – Th. XX, 2. – With exceptionally beautiful Beethoven-Provenance-History. More …

  1. Here available in both their original copper printing plates and contemporary impressions, the Evening apart, too.
  2. Biebertal near Gießen 1715 – Paris 1808. Draughtsman & engraver, dealer & collector. “(C)landestine representative of German culture in France”, representing “A European network of connections” (Décultot, Espagne u. Werner [ed.], Joh. Gg. Wille / Briefwechsel, 1999, pp. 1 + 13 ).
  3. Nevertheless already the other year he has to confess to Wille by letter of June 29 “Have never thought that I would take the brush once more again”, where it was about a follow-up order by Czarina Elizaveta Petrovna, Peter the Great’s daughter, which he could not well decline considering the previous one. Just to think about he could afford at the age of 50 after all! See Décultot et al., op. cit., pp. 76 f. And indeed in this regard Georg Christoph Kilian (1709 Augsburg 1781), too, in 1764: “Of his paintings I will not mention anything but that over time they should become very rare and precious for he … had not worked that many of the same, since several years, however, none at all.”
  4. U. Heise qualifies his Evening of the Deer within their set of the Four Times of Day as “A key image of his physico-theological or nature-philosophical stance” (AKL vol. 98 [2017], pp. 472 f.) and refers to Spickernagel’s further corresponding examination. See Ellen Spickernagel, Dem Auge auf die Sprünge helfen. Jagdbare Tiere und Jagden bei Johann Elias Ridinger (1698-1767), in Annette Bühler-Dietrich, Michael Weingarten (ed.), Topos Tier: Neue Gestaltungen des Tier-Mensch-Verhältnisses, Bielefeld 2015.

„ (D)ie Sendung (Hogarth / Marriage à-la-Mode) ist gestern wohlbehalten hier eingetroffen. Ist alles bestens, und ich danke Ihnen nochmals herzlich für die Beantwortung meiner Fragen und prompte Lieferung … Viele Grüße … “

(Herr C. K., 3. November 2013)