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An Elephant


British Museum

British Museum

This is one of several drawings by Dutch artist Rembrandt (1606-1669) of female elephants in different poses. This elephant may even be one called Hansken, a female known to have been in Holland in 1641. Behind and to the right of the animal are the outlines of three figures, perhaps a family with a child.
The drawing, executed in black chalk and charcoal, shows a clear mastery of form and technique. Most of the animal is outlined with a long thin line. Rembrandt used black chalk in short broken strokes to convey the texture of the elephant's rough wrinkled skin, the ragged ear and curling trunk. In the darkest shadows of the ear and neck he used charcoal to reinforce their depth, an unusual technique for the artist. The elephant's trunk and the family have a broader outline, almost rendering them abstract.
While Rembrandt drew animals for use in his paintings and etchings, this charming elephant does not appear in any known work. Clearly made from life, it stands on its own as an independent work of art.

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  • Title: An Elephant
  • Creator: Rembrandt van Rijn
  • Date Created: 1637
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 179.00mm; Width: 256.00mm (chain lines horizontal, 22mm apart)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Medium: Drawn
  • Technique: drawn
  • Subject: elephant
  • Registration number: Gg,2.259
  • Producer: Drawn by Rembrandt
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Bequeathed by Cracherode, Clayton Mordaunt. Previous owner/ex-collection Barnard, John


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