A prince riding a composite elephant

A prince riding a composite elephant

c. 1590

Ink, opaque watercolor and gold on paper

Page: 28.8 x 18.6 cm (11 5/16 x 7 5/16 in.); Painting: 14.5 x 11 cm (5 11/16 x 4 5/16 in.)

Gift in honor of Madeline Neves Clapp; Gift of Mrs. Henry White Cannon by exchange; Bequest of Louise T. Cooper; Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund; From the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection 2013.282

Fun Fact

Two lions share one head at the top of the elephant’s head.

Description

A prince sits cross-legged in a covered howdah seat secured to the back of a royal elephant with golden rings on its tusks. The elephant is being driven by attendants, one of whom holds a goad. Artists in the southern Indian region known as the Deccan expanded upon Persian practices of embedding creatures in landscape scenes—like a visual double-entendre—and created inventive images of composite creatures made up of figures that invite extended close looking. This painting would have been mounted in an album that was brought out for entertainment in elite intimate gatherings.

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