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Clara the Rhinoceros

Jean-Baptiste Oudry

Clara the Rhinoceros

Jean-Baptiste Oudry
  • Original Title: Clara le Rhinoceros
  • Date: 1749; Paris, France  
  • Style: Rococo
  • Series: Menagerie
  • Genre: animal painting
  • Media: oil, canvas
  • Dimensions: 306 x 453 cm
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Clara the rhinoceros (1738?-14 April 1758) was a female Indian Rhinoceros who became famous during 17 years of touring Europe in the mid-18th century. She arrived in Europe in Rotterdam in 1741, becoming the fifth living rhinoceros to be seen in Europe in modern times since Dürer's Rhinoceros in 1515. After tours through towns in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, France, Italy, Bohemia and Denmark, she died in London.

In 1748, she visited France. She was in Reims in December 1748, and was received by King Louis XV in January 1749 at the royal menagerie in Versailles. She spent 5 months in Paris, creating a sensation: letters, poems, and songs were written about her, and wigs were created à la rhinocéros. Clara was examined by the naturalist Buffon, Jean-Baptiste Oudry painted a life-size portrait of her, and she inspired the French Navy to name a vessel Rhinocéros in 1751. A drawing based on Oudry's painting appeared in Diderot and D'Alembert's Encyclopédie, and Buffon's Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière.

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