- Museum number
- Object: A true representation of ... the Elephant and the Rhinoceros ...
A rhinoceros fighting with an elephant; the rhinoceros, shown with skin like armour plating on the left, gouging the elephant in the stomach; a thistle under the rhinoceros, a palm tree behind, a pool on the right and buildings in the distance; after Barlow.
- Production date
Height: 235 millimetres
Width: 323 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The print was advertised by Tempest in the London Gazette, 22 January 1685, as follows: 'A true representation of the Rhinocerus and Elephant lately brought from the East-Indies to London, drawn after the life, and curiously engraven in Mezzo Tinto, printed upon a large sheet of paper. Sold by Pierce Tempest at the Eagle & Child in the Strand over against Somerset House water-gate.' The print was inspired by the arrival of a rhinoceros in London three months earlier: 'A Very strange Beast called a Rhynoceros, lately brought from the East-Indies, being the first that ever was in England, is daily to be seen at the Bell Savage Inn on Ludgate-Hill, from Nine A Clock in the Morning till Eight at Night' (The London Gazette, 16 October 1684). John Evelyn (1629-1706) gave a lively description of the beast in his diary: 'The Rhinocerous ... resembled a huge enormous swine ... but what was the most wonderfull, was the extraordinary bulke and Circumference of her body, which ... could not be lesse than 20 foote in compasse: she had a set of most dreadful teeth, which were extraordinarily broad, & deepe in her Throate, ... in my opinion nothing was so extravagant as the Skin of the beast, which hung downe on her hanches, both behind and before her knees, lookse like so much Coach leather". (G. Bartrum, Dürer and his Legacy, 2002, cats 242-243, 249-250; T H Clarke, The Rhinoceros from Dürer to Stubbs, 1515-1799, 1986, pp. 39-40.). Barlow's preliminary drawing is in the collection of the Courtauld Institute Gallery (RW 2376).
The attack of the rhinoceros on the elephant refers to Pliny the Elder's account of the natural animosity between the two animals. When Manuel I of Portugal was sent an Indian rhinoceros in 1515 he tested Pliny's account by arranging for an encounter between the rhinoceros and one of the elephants in his menagerie; the elephant fled. Dürer's account on his famous woodcut described the animal's method of attack: "... it runs with its head down between its front legs and gores the stomach of the elephant ...". Barlow has followed Dürer's print in his depiction of the animal and undoubtedly intended to show the attack as described.
For a Dutch print based on Griffier's, see 1840,0314.215.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2002, London, BM, Albrecht Dürer and his Legacy, no. 250
2011 Sep-Dec BM, P&D, Early mezzotints
2013 Oct-Dec, Warwickshire, Compton Verney, Curious Beasts
2014 March-May, Belfast, Ulster Museum, Curious Beasts
2014 June-Aug, Hull, Ferens Art Gallery, Curious Beasts
2014 Oct-Dec, San Diego, University Galleries, Curious Beasts
2016-2017 21 Oct-5 Feb, Adelaide, South Australian Museum: ‘Curious Beasts’
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Acquired with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Friends of the British Museum, the Art Fund, Mrs Charles Wrightsman, the Michael Marks Charitable Trust, and numerous individual donors.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number