Renault Clara was a sensation in Europe in the eighteenth century, a hype. The animal was admired, studied, ridiculed, and marketed. The Amsterdam Rijksmuseum is now showing its first comprehensive exhibition on the phenomenon from Friday. “Clara was a wonderful animal for science and an inspiration to artists,” said museum director, Taco Dibbets, presenting today’s show. More than 60 paintings, drawings, sculptures and objects from international museums illustrate the special meaning of an animal.
The masterpiece of the exhibition is a painting by Jean-Baptiste Audrey from the Schwerin State Museum. The French painter reproduced a life-size and frighteningly real rhinoceros in 1749 after being introduced in Paris. At that time, Clara was eleven years old, three and a half meters in length, 1.70 meters in height, and her weight was 2500 kg. The first drawing of a rhinoceros can also be seen, a print by Albrecht Dürer from 1515 – although he had never seen such an animal before.
The Indian rhinoceros was a gift to a Dutch captain who brought it to Amsterdam in 1741 and marketed it. For 17 years he traveled with Clara and exhibited the animal for a fee at fairs, at royal courts and at folk festivals, from Vienna to Copenhagen, from Augsburg to Paris, from Venice to Naples. People everywhere wanted to see “Jungfer Clara”, as the animal was announced in Würzburg in 1748.
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