Albrecht Dürer: The Rhinoceros (1515)

(National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA)

Another famous picture by Dürer. A rhinoceros was an exotic animal and not seen in Europe since ancient Rome. A living Indian Rhinoceros arrived in 1515 at the court of king Manuel I of Portugal (the animal was a gift from sultan Muzafar II of Cambay) . The animal created a great sensation when it arrived and was examined by scholars. The rhinoceros later died when it was shipped to Italy as a gift from Manuel to Pope Leo X. The woodcut form Dürer is based upon the written descriptions of the Indian Rhinoceros (he never saw a Rhinoceros) and the picture is not anatomical correct - the animal has armour like hard plates, a gorget at the throat and even a second small horn on its back. Nevertheless this picture was regarded as a true representation of this animal into the 18th century. Woodcut from 1515.