Jean-Baptiste Oudry

Rhinoceros

Clara mania in Europe! The Indian rhinoceros born in Assam and which was known by the name of Clara caused a sensation in 1741. A Dutch captain brought the rhino – an animal that had never been seen before in Europe – from India to Rotterdam, by ship of course. He presented her at the Saint-Germain Fair in Paris, where she inspired many artists to undertake drawings and studies of her.

Jean-Baptiste Oudry painted her life size. The celebrated court painter to King Louis XV was known especially for his hunting scenes paintings which were accurate in every detail. The magnificent painting was shown at the Paris Salon in 1749 and acquired in 1750 by Duke Christian Ludwig II of Mecklenburg-Schwerin together with a series of menagerie paintings. A total of about 57 drawings by the French court painter passed into the possession of the court in Schwerin, permitting the museum to present a self-contained collection of his works today. With 34 paintings and about 40 hand drawings, Schwerin has the largest collection of works by the French animal painter worldwide.

In fact, the Clara painting was never put properly on display. Probably due to its size, the painting remained stored away for a long time. Only since 2008, following extensive restoration work at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, has it been on exhibit in the Staatliches Museum Schwerin, permitting the Clara mania to be rekindled once more in Schwerin.