Stefano della Bella (Florence 1610 - Florence 1664)

Two Studies of the Head of an Elephant Sold

Pen and brown ink and slight touches of brown wash, over an underdrawing in black chalk.
The left corners of the sheet cut.
Numbered 67 on the verso.
84 x 95 mm. (3 1/4 x 3 3/4 in.)


A closely related drawing - a study of an elephant curling its trunk - was mounted alongside the present pair of drawings and two other studies of elephants in the Tomkins album. The aforementioned drawing, until recently in a Swiss private collection, is particularly close in style and handling to the present sheet.

Named Hansken, the elephant depicted in this drawing was well known throughout Europe. He was born in Ceylon in 1630, and three years later arrived in Amsterdam aboard a Dutch East India Company ship, as a young animal. For the next twenty-one years - between 1634 and 1655 - Hansken was displayed in cities in Holland, Germany, Poland, Russia, Denmark, France, Switzerland and Italy. He died in Florence in November 1655, and his skeleton is today on display in the Museo di Storia Naturale ‘La Speccola’ in Florence.

Part of an album of drawings by Stefano della Bella assembled by Thomas Tomkins, London
His posthumous sale, London, Mr. Hickman’s Gallery, 25-28 February 1818, lot 289
Robert Stayner Holford, M.P., Dorchester House, London and Westonbirt, Gloucestershire
By descent to his son, Lt. Col. Sir George Lindsay Holford, K.C.V.O., Dorchester House, London and Westonbirt, Gloucestershire
His posthumous sale, London, Sotheby’s, 22 May 1928, lot 29B
Private collection
The album broken up and dispersed at auction; London, Christie’s, 18 March 1975, the present sheet part of lot 15
Duke Roberto Ferretti di Castelferretto, Montreal
His sale, London, Christie’s, 2 July 1996, part of lot 16
Private collection.

Jolanta Talbierska, Stefano della Bella (1610-1664): Etchings from the Collection of the Print Room of the Warsaw University Library, Warsaw, 2001, p.101, under no.229; Detlef Heikamp and Michiel Roscam Abbing, ‘Epitaffio per un elefante morto nella Loggia dei Lanzi’, in Eike D. Schmidt and Maria Sframeli, ed., Diafane passioni: Avore barocchi dalle corti europee, exhibition catalogue, Florence, 2013, p.53, fig.20; Michiel Roscam Abbing, Rembrandts olifant: In het spoor van Hansken, Amsterlveen, 2016, pp.66-67, fig.31.


Two Studies of the Head of an Elephant


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