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Nicolaus Ritter Junior (1777-1797/1817?)


inscribed ‘Nicolaus Ritter. Junior/ dessinée apres lui même à l’áge/ de 16 ans 1793. amsterdam’ (verso)
black chalk
30.9 x 23.8 cm

Hardly anything is known about Nicolaus Ritter junior, the son of the artist George Nicolaus Ritter (1748/1749-1809), who specialized miniature portraits and had emigrated to Amsterdam from German [1]. That Ritter junior was ambitious and his talents were recognized early on, however, is evident from the small number of drawings by his hand that have survived.
Ritter joined the Amsterdam ‘Stadstekenacademie’ on 3 October 1792 [2] and already in the year after he produced at least two self-portraits that demonstrate the artist’s confidence and ambition; one in the Rijksmuseum and the present, previously unpublished, drawing. The Rijksmuseum sheet shows the artist confidently looking at the viewer while holding a drawings folder and a porte-crayon, while the verso shows a faint study of an older man in an evening gown. [3] The present sheet is inscribed with the same inscription on the verso in the same hand-writing as the self-portrait in the Rijksmuseum (‘Nicolaus Ritter. Junior/ dessinée apres lui même à l’áge/ de 16 ans 1793. amsterdam’). In this sheet, the artist presents himself without any hesitation; he positioned himself while looking straight at the viewer, again holding a porte-crayon and a drawings folder. His flamboyant shirt, ear-ring and lose hair appear to reveal the character of a young artist ready to storm the (international) art scene.
His artistic talents did not go unnoticed; two years after he made the two self-portraits (in 1795) he received the third price for an academy study and in 1796 he received the second price for another academy study, both sheets are now in the Rijksmuseum. [4] Another self-portrait, which is particularly close in spirit to the present sheet, was made for an album amicorum in circa 1795, compiled by the Amsterdam artist Jacob Smies (1764-1833) and which is now in the Universiteitsbibliotheek, Amsterdam. [5] The drawing demonstrates Ritter’s swift development as an artist; his style seems to have fully developed and any naïve elements that were still visible in previous drawings are no longer present.
The members list of the stadstekenacademie mentions that Ritter left The Netherlands in 1797 and virtually nothing is known about the artist from after this date. On the basis of the existence of a portrait drawing by Ritter in the Pushkin Museum which comes from a 19th-century Russian collection, Vadim Sadkov has suggested that the artist could have possibly left his native Holland for Russia. [6]

[1] R. van Eijnden and A. van der Willigen, 'Geschiedenis der Vaderlandsche Schilderkunst, sedert de helft der XVIII eeuw', Haarlem, 1830 [reprint, Amsterdam, 1979], vol. II, p. 366.[2] R.W.A. Bionda, ‘Een album amicorum van Jacob Smies’, Jaarboek Amstelodamum, LXXXV, 1983, p. 96.
[3] RP-T-FM-364(R) and RP-T-FM-364(V).
[4] RP-T-00-2847 and RP-T-00-2849.
[5] R.W.A. Bionda, op. cit., p. 96, fig. 4.
[6] V. Sadkov et al., The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. Netherlandish, Flemish and Dutch Drawings of the XVI-XVIII Centuries. Belgian and Dutch Drawings of the XIX-XXX Centuries, Amsterdam, 2010, no. 604, ill.

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