- Museum number
The siege of the elephant; elephant facing left, surrounded by armed figures and demonic creatures attempting to battle the occupants of the castle on its back; first state; after Alart du Hameel
- Production date
- 1563 (c.)
Height: 402 millimetres
Width: 540 millimetres
- Curator's comments
Although the design has been traditionally attributed to Hieronymus Bosch, this composition is a free copy after an engraving by Alaert du Hameel (only two impressions known, see 1845,0809.439), which was possibly based directly on a lost painting or drawing by Hieronymus Bosch. Hameel and Bosch worked together on the Sint-Janskathedraal in 's-Hertogenbosch.
Literature: 's-Hertogenbosch 1967, no.95; Rotterdam 2001, p.116; M. Ilsink, in J. van Grieken - G. Luijten - J. van der Stock, "Hieronymus Cock: The Renaissance in Print", exh.cat. Royal Library of Belgium in Brussels and Fondation Custodia in Paris, New Haven and London, 2013, cat.no.61.
Entry for 2003-4 Japan exhibition
Hieronymus Bosch's art is so extraordinary that his name has come to symbolize all that can be bizarre, fanciful, imaginative and terrifying in western imagery. Primarily active in 's-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, he conjured up a new world of powerful emblems to describe the folly and wickedness of mankind. But the full significance of many of his images, including the Siege of the Elephant, is now difficult to reconstruct precisely. The Latin inscription, which may be translated as follows, offers some clues: 'the impulses of recklessness are as sudden as they are violent; unbalanced by their incitement, man's mind is unable to heed its own dangers nor to judge freely the deeds of others'. It is likely that the Elephant represents man’s foolish and reckless ways. The figures make every attempt to clamber aboard, using various bizarre weapons and instruments of war, by teems of figures grouped around flags that bear the symbols of various trade guilds: a spindle, compass, painter's easel, weaver’s bobbin, nets, scissors, axe and a barrow.
The print was made in the mid-sixteenth century, and published by Hieronymus Cock (1507-1570), the leading print publisher at the time, who was based in Antwerp. Although Bosch himself had died in 1516, his style and visual language retained its popularity, as this print testifies. It depends on images produced during Bosch's own lifetime, in particular a print made by Alart du Hameel (1459?-1509; Hollstein 7), which may depend on a lost painting. The collection of such prints in the British Museum is uneven, but the present example came with the munificent bequest of prints and drawings belonging to C.M. Cracherode.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2003 Oct-Dec, Tokyo, Metropolitan Art Museum, 'BM Treasures...'
2004 Jan-Mar, Kobe, City Museum, 'BM Treasures...'
2004 Apr-Jun, Fukuoka, City Museum, 'BM Treasures...'
2004 Jun-Aug, Niigata, Prefectural Mus of Fine Arts, 'BM Treasures...'
2005 Apr-Jul, Seoul Arts Centre, 'BM Treasures...'
2005 Jul-Oct, Korea, Busan Museum, 'BM Treasures...'
2005/6 Oct-Jan, Daegu, Keimyung Univ. Museum, 'BM Treasures...'
2010 28 April -4 May, London, Royal Academy, London Original Print Fair
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
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number