Rhinocerus is a woodcut representing the first Indian rhinoceros to be seen in Europe, drew by Durer from oral descriptions . This rhino landed in Lisbon, Portugal in 1515, caming from India under King D. Manuel. Despite some inaccuracies Rhinocerus became very famous.
The rhinoceros departed from Cochin, India, on January 1515 aboard the ship Nossa Senhora da Ajuda and took 120 days to arrive in Lisbon. It’s believed the date of arrival is May the 20th and that the rhino was kept between the Palácio da Ribeira and Casa de Goa. While staying there a fight with an Indian Elephant took place on June the 3rd.
The Fight of Rhinocerus
While in Lisbon Rhinocerus had a fight with an Indian Elephant, the fight was then described as follows
The rhinoceros was brought inside the fence where the spectacle was to take place, it was hidden with carpets, so the elephant wouldn’t see it too soon. The elephant was introduced in the fence and the rhinoceros was reveled. Chained, the rhinoceros walked in direction of the elephant. At this point the latter panicked and took to flight leaving behind its cornoc. The elephant ran away straight to its stable. The rhinoceros remained quietly and was declared the winner.
After this episode the king decided to offer Rhinocerus to Pope Leo XI.
Rhinocerus Journey to Rome
King D. Manuel I of Portugal ordered João de Pina to take rhinoceros as a present to the Pope to Rome. Along with the rhino, joão de pina took other presents: “2 silver barrels, 2 silver tankards, 2 silver washing basins, 2 silver jars, 2 golden goblets” (Da costa, 1937: 28 and 42).
João de Pina departed from Lisbon on December 1515 and arrived in France on January 1516. The Rhino was landed on an island close to Marseille where it was visited by the french king François I.
In the beginning of February 1516 they left for Rome but never got there. The ship went down near Spezia, Italy. The animal body was recovered from the sea, stuffed and sent to the pope.
Dürer is a famous German artist and naturalist illustrator and born in Nuremberg.
The artist established his reputation and influence across Europe due to his high-quality woodcut prints. He was also a painter, a printmaker and a theorist of the German Renaissance.
Due to the success of this Rhino the artist draw many Rhinocerus and one of its originals is at the British Museum in London. The drawing was “copied” by many artists among them is David Kandel.
Albrecht Durer’s relationship with the Portuguese.
Rhinocerus was the first work connecting Dürer with Portugal. In the years of 1520 and 1521, Dürer visited the Netherlands and kept a detailed diary of it’s relationship with the Portuguese.
Dürer was fascinated by the exotic products like rhinos, coconuts, wine, corals, parrots, brought by the Portuguese during the Discoveries. On August 1520, as soon as he arrived in Antwerp, he visited João Brandão (the Portuguese director of the trading post) and portrayed him. He then establishes a more personal relationship with Rui Fernades de Almada, the secretary of the trading post.
In his diary Dürer describes Fernandes de Almada as a man of great humanism and talent. He writes that on May the 16th of 1521 he offers the Portuguese a Saint Jerome painting.
Shortly afterwards, he draws a drawing of Rui Fernandes de Almada, who is in the Albertina museum in Viena, and another drawn picture, the Black Catherine, who is now in the Uffizi in Florence. To the successor of João Brandão, Francisco Pessoa, Dürer offers a Veronica and multiple drawings.
The Portuguese returned offering him wine spices and living animals.
Take a look at the collection we designed using Rhinocerus by Albrecht Durer
Or read about the rational and materials we used in the New Rhinocerus Collection.