Visual Connections – A game of two rhinos

Rhinoceros, Dubbo, NSW
©Garrulous Gwendoline
Last week, fellow blogger Garrulous Gwendoline, posted a delightful piece about her visit to Dubbo, New South Wales, Australia. She illustrated her account with some charming animal photos. Along with some appealing pictures of that special Aussie bundle of fur, the koala, there was a striking photo of a rhinoceros. As soon as I saw the photograph I was immediately reminded of the popular woodcut made by Dürer 500 years ago.

rhinoceros woodcut
Dürer woodcut rhinoceros from notes!

Art Historians are fascinated by Dürer for many different reasons and one of them is this woodcut. He constructed his image of a rhino not from his own direct visual encounter, but from secondhand reports sent to him in Germany. The first living rhinoceros to be seen in Europe for over 1000 years was a gift sent from India and had arrived in Lisbon in 1515 amid much interest and curiosity. I think we can say it was an opportunity not to be missed and Dürer set to work and produced his high quality prints. A woodcut and drawing of Dürer’s rhino is held by the British Museum.

Apart from offering to his public his contemporary theory of art and reinvigorating the medium of print, Dürer also left us a short series of self portraits as a visual record of his ideas and confident imagination. This is one of my favourite self portraits as he presents us with a dramatic, intense, almost 21st-century celebrity style version of self. There is much art historical discussion about his choice to portray himself in such a Christ-like manner, but I think the general consensus is that he is idealising and promoting the role of the artist as opposed to himself. Well, he certainly makes himself look attractive and appealing in a very human way. One day I hope to travel to Germany to see the original hanging in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, but for now here it is.

Dürer self portrait 1500
Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)
Self-portrait with fur-trimmed robe (1500)
Limewood 67.1 x 48.9 cm

“Thus I, Albrecht Dürer from Nuremberg, portrayed myself with characteristic colours in my 28th year.” Translation of the Latin inscription.

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

6 thoughts on “Visual Connections – A game of two rhinos”

  1. That looks like an armoured rhino! I wonder if that’s supposed to be real or it wondered in from Middle Earth. And that painting looks like it has some odd hidden messages – ala Da Vinci – although I haven’t a clue.

    1. It looks pretty much like a tank doesn’t it? Apparently this image was doing the rounds across Europe for over 300 hundred years before a more accurate version was available. As to the painting, who knows, he was a very smart cookie!

  2. Did you watch a programme on BBC4 the other night? I think it was last Monday, around 9ish. The programme was about Rococo. And in there, they are featuring the famous rhino you mentioned in this post. The OTT-ness of the woodcut really represents the spirit of Rococo. Very fascinating…😊

    1. No – I didn’t see it, but I read in the sunday paper that Waldemar Januszczak was presenting a new TV series on Rococo and then I went and missed it. I’ll see if I can get it on catch-up. Thanks for the info and reminding me. I’m interested in what he has to say as he usually gives a very well-informed, interesting but personal take on stuff.

    1. That portrait! I remember the first time I saw it in a book, I couldn’t believe it was so old as something about it seemed so here and now. You’re right it definitely has a romantic feel, more Pre-Raphaelite than Renaissance.

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