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Clara the Rhinoceros



In 1741 a ship arrived in the Netherlands carrying a miraculous animal that few people in Europe had seen before: a young female rhinoceros from India named Clara. For 17 years, Clara traveled with her owner Douwe Mout through almost every country in Europe. Wherever she appeared, she made a sensation, becoming the most famous rhino in European history. Artists such as Jan Wandelaar, Johann Elias Ridinger, Petrus Camper, Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon and Pietro Longhi immortalized her in paintings, drawings, sculptures and medals; she even influenced fashion; and she permanently corrected the false image of a rhinoceros perpetuated by Dürer in his famous 1515 engraving.

Based on new research, Gijs van der Ham, a former senior curator at the Rijksmuseum, reconstructs her life, travels and captivity, and unravels her influence on the iconography and knowledge of rhinoceroses.

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