Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is set to open a pair of new animal-themed exhibitions, both running from 30 September 2022 – 15 January 2023:
–Clara was unfamiliar, impressively large, and strange to behold – in short, she was different from any other animal. Clara the Rhinoceros tells the marvellous story of the most famous rhinoceros in history.[Rijksmuseum]
-In 60 objects including paintings, drawings, medallions, sculptures, books and clocks never seen together before, you’ll see how new knowledge changed people’s perceptions of the rhinoceros, and how art played a big role in this process.
SUPERSTAR OF THE 18TH CENTURY
-Though it’s difficult to imagine now, until Clara arrived in the Netherlands, pretty much everything Europeans knew about the rhinoceros came from a print made in 1515. That all changed in 1741, when the Dutch sea captain Douwe Mout van der Meer brought Clara to Amsterdam from India. For the next 17 years, she toured towns and cities all over Europe, attracting big crowds.
-Clara became a superstar of the 18th century. Scientists studied her, and artists marvelled at her appearance. The exhibition tells the story of Clara’s life and how her presence changed our perception of the rhinoceros, from a semi-mythical beast to a real live animal. This is perfectly illustrated in the exhibition by two images: the very first print portraying the rhinoceros, made by Albrecht Dürer in 1515; and the life-size, full-length portrait of Clara by Jean-Baptiste Oudry, dating from 1749.
HUMANS AND ANIMALS
-Though Clara was greatly admired, she was also something of a fairground attraction, and she never mixed with other rhinoceroses. So despite her star status, how happy would she have been? Her story also touches on the relationship between humans and animals. It’s an issue raised by contemporary artist Rossella Biscotti in her 2016 installation Clara. This work reveals that colonialism, exoticism, exploitation and power are also part of Clara’s story.
-The Rijksmuseum is teeming with more than a thousand colourful butterflies, hairy spiders and glistening toads. The more than 140 paintings, sculptures, books and preserved specimens reflect the ever-changing perceptions of crawly creatures in the arts and sciences.[Rijksmuseum]
FROM HORROR TO WONDER
–Crawly Creatures takes a close look at these changing perceptions in 140 objects, with highlights including the first drawing that took an insect as its main subject, made in 1505 by Albrecht Dürer, and Peter Paul Rubens’ Head of Medusa (1617-18). And we discover how this emerging appreciation for crawly creatures gave rise to a new painting genre known as Sottobosco, meaning ‘forest flora and fauna’. The inventor of the genre, Otto Marseus van Schrieck, even bred reptiles, amphibians and insects himself. See for yourself how Sottobosco paintings merge the arts and sciences, in the final gallery of the exhibition.
FROM THE 17TH CENTURY TO THE PRESENT DAY
-How do we see these little beings today? Are they really creepy crawlies at all? Only now, when it’s perhaps too late, are we realising how important they are to our ecosystems.
-This exhibition also features work by the contemporary artists Tomás Saraceno and Rafael Gomezbarros.