The Rhinoceros and the Megatherium. An Essay in Natural by Juan Pimentel, Peter Mason

By Juan Pimentel, Peter Mason

One animal left India in 1515, caged within the carry of a Portuguese send, and sailed round Africa to Lisbon—the first of its species to determine Europe for greater than 1000 years. the opposite crossed the Atlantic from South the United States to Madrid in 1789, its large fossilized bones packed in crates, its species unknown. How did Europeans 3 centuries aside reply to those mysterious beasts—a rhinoceros, identified basically from historical texts, and a anonymous monster? As Juan Pimentel explains, the reactions mirror deep highbrow alterations but in addition the long-lasting strength of picture and mind's eye to form our knowing of the common world.

We be aware of the rhinoceros this present day as “Dürer’s Rhinoceros,” after the German artist’s iconic woodcut. His portrait was once inaccurate—Dürer by no means observed the beast and depended on conjecture, aided by means of a comic strip from Lisbon. however the impression of his awesome paintings mirrored a gentle stream clear of historic authority to the dissemination in print of latest principles and pictures. by the point the megatherium arrived in Spain, that circulate had reworked technology. whilst released drawings chanced on their strategy to Paris, the nice zoologist Georges Cuvier safely deduced that the big bones should have belonged to an extinct massive sloth. It was once a pivotal second within the discovery of the prehistoric world.

The Rhinoceros and the Megatherium deals a penetrating account of 2 striking episodes within the cultural heritage of technological know-how and is itself a bright instance of the clinical mind's eye at paintings.

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Extra resources for The Rhinoceros and the Megatherium. An Essay in Natural History

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Hanno epitaph, by Francisco de Holanda, sketchbook, 1538 (El Escorial Library, Madrid). The whole Vatican court was in crisis. Raphael, the pope’s great artistic protégé, died young in 1519, a decade before the two Iberian monarchies were to nominally divide the oriental hemisphere in Zaragoza with the sanction of papal bulls. As a token of gratitude for the gift of the elephant, for example, he granted Manuel the highest Vatican distinction, the Gladius et Pileus (Papal Sword and Ducal Cap).

16 The rhinoceros was attributed with the opposite characteristics. Pliny mentions one with a single horn that had been seen in Rome in the celebrated games held in honor of the victorious return of Pompey: “This is the second natural enemy of the elephant. ”17 Indeed, while the skin on the back of the elephant is very hard, the skin of its belly is soft. Pliny took this information from Strabo, and it was later repeated by Solinus, Isidore of Seville, and many others. The elephant’s belly was its Achilles’ heel, the spot that its second enemy, the malevolent rhinoceros, always sought.

The whole Vatican court was in crisis. Raphael, the pope’s great artistic protégé, died young in 1519, a decade before the two Iberian monarchies were to nominally divide the oriental hemisphere in Zaragoza with the sanction of papal bulls. As a token of gratitude for the gift of the elephant, for example, he granted Manuel the highest Vatican distinction, the Gladius et Pileus (Papal Sword and Ducal Cap). When Ganda passed through Marseilles in January 1516, the storm clouds were already gathering, and burst soon afterwards.

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