(circa 1736–1784, Augsburg)

The Rule of Death: Omnia mihi subdita (second version). Mezzotint after Johann Elias Ridinger. 57.4 x 41.3 cm. “Ioh. Iacob Ridinger sculps. / Ioh. El. Ridinger delin. et excud. Aug. Vind”. Not in Thienemann / Stillfried, Schwarz 1477. Watermark : Letters ‘Wangen’ with countermark.

The author of the model for this composition, Johann Elias Ridinger, is known mostly for his depictions of animals and hunting scenes, but around 1760 he turned his attention briefly to the memento mori theme. With one exception all the prints from this short creative period were executed by his son, Johann Jakob Ridinger, in black manner. This first version of his highly impressive and visually riveting depiction of vanitas was unknown to Thienemann and only added to his oeuvre by Heinrich Graf Stillfried in the third supplement to the catalogue of his works in 1876. The image is dominated by Death wrapped in a flowing cape, who sits enthroned in a burial niche, his skull crowned by a bat-winged hour glass. Beneath the skeleton is a confusion of religious, profane, scientific and artistic attributes arranged in the manner of a still life. The whole image is tremendously evocative.

The present extremely rare print, which Schwarz erroneously described as a revised version of the plate, is in fact the second version of the same subject matter in which marginal changes help to intensify the content. In particular, the tip of the arrow now no longer points to the gap between the words “omnia” and “mihi” but directly at the letter “m” in “mihi”, which gives the motto a more personal touch and at the same time directly targets the observer. In contrast to the first version the artist has not combined mezzotint and etching, the sheet being treated completely in black manner.

A superb, rich impression with even thread margins around the platemark. Minor ageing and minimal traces of handling, otherwise in excellent condition. From the collection of Graf Faber-Castell.