Kändler's Taxa of March 1741 records: Einem grossen Elephanten; and Reinicke's of November 1743 mentions: 1 Elephanten 9 Zoll hoch mit einer verzeiten Decke uberhanged, in Thon bossirt.
In China and Japan, where early elephant populations had become extinct, artistic depictions of them were rather stylised. The European fashion for all things exotic and Oriental in the 17th Century ensured the importation of models of elephants from China and Japan, executed in a variety of media including porcelain. In the 17th Century two Kakiemon models of standing elephants with raised trunks were recorded at Burghley House, Lincolnshire. Another, mounted as a clock, is in the Munich Residenz; and a fourth is the Dresden Porzellansammlung, see J. Ayers, O. Impey, J. Mallet et. al, Porcelain for Palaces, The Fashion for Japan in Europe 1650-1750, British Museum, Exhibition Catalogue, London, 1990, nos. 147 and 160. These elephants are slightly peculiar-looking creatures, modelled with rather creased trunks, almond-shaped eyes and humanoid ears, wearing elaborately decorated saddle-cloths on their backs. It is clear that the painter who decorated this elephant had never seen one, as it has been given markings resembling fur.
The most important and influential painter at Meissen, J.G. Höroldt, must have been familiar with such depictions. Sheet 18 (illustrated above) of his Schulz Codex sketchbook shows an elephant which is very similar in feel to the present model.
A similar example is illustrated by Carl Albiker, Die Meissner Porzellantiere im 18. Jahrhundert, Berlin, 1959, no. 255. Two models are in the Ansbach Residenz, see Rainer Rückert, Meissener Porzellan 1710-1810, Munich, 1966, pl. 263, nos. 1060 and 1061. A version of this model and its corresponding group, a Sultan on a rhinoceros, from the Collection of S.B. Joel, was sold by Christie's on 29 May 1935, lot 33. Another pair mounted on ormolu from The William S. Paley Collection were sold by Christie's in New York on 21 October 2004, lot 1236