In the Company of Animals: Art, Literature, and Music at the Morgan
Forequarters of an Elephant
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910
Rembrandt made several elephant sketches. The subject is thought to be a female elephant named Hansken, who traveled from Ceylon to Amsterdam in 1637. The artist paid close attention to the texture of her skin and faithfully depicted her without tusks: female Asian elephants often have small or broken tusks. She stands serenely in this image but was trained to perform various tricks to entertain the crowds who paid to see her. One observer wrote, she "dances in circles, fences an opponent with a sword, kneels... puts on a hat and takes it off."
Verscheyde soorten van gedierten
Haarlem: Margareta van Bancken..., 1690
Purchased on the Ball Fund, 1985
Printed on cheap paper and, at a penny or two, meant to be affordable to the general public, this Dutch catchpenny print from the seventeenth century is in remarkable condition. Printed from twenty-four small woodblocks, the print's diverse animal subjects are meant to be instructive as well as amusing, a child's introduction to natural history. The most exalted exotic animals, the lion and elephant, appear first, followed by the cow and horse, two animals central to artistic depictions of Dutch rural life.