Rembrandt van Rijn, An Elephant, a drawing

The Netherlands, around AD 1637

A careful study

This is one of several drawings by Rembrandt of female elephants in different poses. This elephant may even be one called 'Hansken', a female despite her name, known to have been in Holland in 1641. Behind and to the right of the animal are the outlines of three figures, perhaps a family with a child.

The drawing, in black chalk and charcoal, shows a clear mastery of form and technique. Most of the animal is outlined with a long thin line. Rembrandt used black chalk in short broken strokes to convey the texture of the elephant's rough wrinkled skin, the ragged ear and curling trunk. In the darkest shadows of the ear and neck he used charcoal to reinforce their depth, an unusual technique for the artist. The elephant's trunk and the family have a broader outline.

While Rembrandt drew animals for use in his paintings and etchings, this charming elephant does not appear in any known work. Clearly made from life, it stands on its own as an independent work of art.

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More information


M. Royalton-Kisch, Drawings by Rembrandt and his, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)


Height: 179.000 mm
Width: 256.000 mm

Museum number

PD Gg.2-259


Bequeathed by C.M. Cracherode (1799)


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