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Vente Christie's Genève, 9 mai 1989, lot 170.
Collection Maurice Rheims, Paris
Galerie J. Kugel, Paris.
V. Laloux et P. Cruysmans, Le bestiaire des orfèvres, l'oeil du hibou, Suisse, 1994, illustr. p. 106.
Maurice Rheims, Nouveau voyage autour de ma chambre, Paris, 2000.
Post Lot Text
A GERMAN SILVER-GILT MODEL OF AN ELEPHANT
MAKER'S MARK OF CHRISTOPH II RITTER, NUREMBERG, 1593-1602
The elephant with its trunk down-curved towards its mouth, the palanquin shaped as a crenelated tower carrying four mamluk soldiers, two armed with lance and rifle and the other two with musical instruments and retaining some traces of green and red enamel, the cornac with hat (his stick lacking), marked on the tower
The elephant is not only a symbol of ostentatious wealth but also of strength and power as demonstrated in its use in the armies of Hannibal and Alexander. The first iconographic representations of the animal, as well as the texts, glorify and exaggerate this strength from the 11th century on. In the Vulgate, the Latin version of the Bible, in use during the Middle Ages, the book of the Maccabees mentions how thirty-two warriors could climb on each elephant. Similarly Jourdain de Séverac, a French Dominican monk in the 14th century, described how the elephant could be fitted with a sort of cockpit that could accomodate more than thirty people.
Christoph II Ritter made several such elephant models: one was in the collection of Karl von Rothschild; a second belonged to Madame Joseph Szabo in Budapest (see M. Rosenberg, Der Goldschmiede Merkzeichen, Frankfurt, 1922, vol. 3, p.80-82); a third was in the Victor Rothschild collection (sold at Sotheby's & Co, 26th April 1937, lot 238). In addition, an apparently identical elephant to the present example was recorded in the collection of Edmond de Rothschild.