- Rhinocerus (Rhinoceros)
First edition of a broadside on a rhinoceros; with a woodcut of a rhinoceros standing in profile to the right, and five lines letterpress above. 1515 Woodcut and letterpress
- Height: 212 millimetres (woodcut)
- Width: 296 millimetres (woodcut)
- Height: 248 millimetres (whole sheet)
- Width: 317 millimetres (whole sheet)
Inscription ContentSigned, dated, and titled on the block.
The print has five lines of tex talong the upper edge beginning: 'Nach Christus gepurt. 1513. Jar. Adi. i. May. Hat man dem grossmechtigen Kunig von Portugall Emanuell gen Lysabona pracht aus India ein sollich lebendig Thier. Das nennten sie Rhinoceros...' (translation in full: 'On 1 May 1513 [this should read 1515] was brought from India to the great and powerful king Emanuel of Portugal at Lisbon a live animal called a rhinoceros. His form is here represented. It has the colour of a speckled tortoise and it is covered with thick scales. It is like an elephant in size, but lower on its legs and almost invulnerable. It has a strong sharp horn on its nose which it sharpens on stones. The stupid animal is the elephant’s deadly enemy. The elephant is very frightened of it as, when they meet, it runs with its head down between its front legs and gores the stomach of the elephant and throttles it, and the elephant cannot fend it off. Because the animal is so well armed, there is nothing that the elephant can do to it. It is also said that the rhinoceros is fast, lively and cunning.’ )
Dürer’s famous woodcut records the arrival of the first rhinoceros to reach Europe alive since the third century AD. It had been presented by the ruler of Gujarat, Sultan Muzafar II, to the governor of Portugese India, Alfonso d'Albuquerque, who sent it on to King Manuel I in Lisbon, where it arrived on 20 May, 1515. The appearance of a creature as exotic as this was the subject of massive interest, and Dürer's print turned out to be one of the most influential images in the history of western art; but Dürer never saw the animal himself. It is very likely that he based his design on a description in a Portugese newsletter that was sent to Nuremberg accompanied by some sort of sketch. His original drawing for the woodcut was in the collection of Sir Hans Sloane and is now in the British Museum (see Sl,5218.161). The text, translated in full here, is also closely based on Dürer’s inscription underneath the drawing. This impression of the woodcut comes from the first edition of 1515, which was the only one to be printed in Dürer’s lifetime. Seven editions were printed from the block, the last of which, accompanied by a colour tone block, was issued after 1620 by Willem Janssen in Amsterdam.
For further information about the influence of this print, see T.H. Clarke, 'The Rhinoceros from Dürer to Stubbs: 1515-1799', London, 1986.
Additional lit: G.Bartrum, 'German Renaissance Prints', exh.cat. BM, 1995, no.35; G.Bartrum, 'Dürer and his Legacy', exh.cat. BM, 2002, no. 243; M. McDonald, 'Ferdinand Columbus: Renaissance Collector', 2004-5, no.44
German XVIc Mounted Roy
1977 London, BM, Animals in Art
1992 Feb-Mar, Atami, Moa Museum of Art, World Wildlife Fund Exh
1995 Jun-Oct, BM, 'German Renaissance Prints, 1490-1550', no.35
1996 Jun-Aug, Canterbury, Royal Mus and AG, German Renaissance Prints
1996 Nov-Dec, Edinburgh, NG of Scotland, German Renaissance Prints
1997 Jan-Mar, Cardiff, Nat Mus of Wales, German Renaissance Prints
1997 Apr-May, Llandudno, Oriel Mostyn Gallery, Germ. Ren. Prints
1997 Oct-Dec, Norwich, Sainsbury Centre, German Renaissance Prints
1999/2000 Nov-Jan, Ghent, St. Peter's Abbey, 'Carolus'
2002/3 Dec-Mar, London BM, Dürer and his Legacy, no.243
2004 Jun-Jul, Madrid, 'LaCaixa', Ferdinand Columbus
2004 Oct-Dec, Seville, Salon Alto del Apeadero, Ferdinand Columbus
2005 London BM, Columbus
2006 London BM, Masterpieces of the British Museum, BBC series
2010 Sept - December, London BM, History of the World
2010-2011, London, BM/BBC, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
Prints & Drawings
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Object reference number: PPA46371
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