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Touring the Collection, Part 2

In part one of this post, I suggested a self-guided tour of 18th-century portraiture in the Getty Museum's collection. Here is a second tour that takes you from the galleries of Oudry's Painted Menagerie to the decorative arts collection in the Getty Center's South Pavilion.

Self-Guided Tour of Exotic Animals in Fabric and Porcelain
The spectacular "Rhino-Mania" section of Oudry's Painted Menagerie features objects related to the cultural phenomenon surrounding Clara, the Indian rhinoceros. In 1515, Albrecht Dürer created a woodblock print of an Indian rhinoceros that had arrived in Portugal that year. Dürer based his print purely on word-of-mouth description of the creature. Remarkably enough, his print became the accepted image of a rhinoceros for more than 200 years, until Clara's European debut in 1741!

The legacy of Dürer's print is evident in the Getty Museum's tapestry The Striped Horse from The Old Indies Series (1690–1730). A myriad of mammals crowd in the center, while exotic birds rest in the trees and both fresh and saltwater fish swim downstream. Look closely and you will notice Dürer's rhino standing behind the leopard, attacking the zebra—it appears complete with armored plates, hairy nose, toad-like color, and an extra horn protruding from its neck.

The tapestry presumes to portray the wildlife of a 17th-century Dutch territory in northeast Brazil, but some of the creatures, including the Indian rhinoceros, were out of place for this area of the world. Similarly, two of Oudry's paintings in the exhibition bring together birds from various parts of the world on one canvas: Bustard and Guinea Hen (below left) and Demoiselle Crane, Toucan, and Tufted Crane (1745).

Bustard and Guinea Hen / Oudry Rhinoceros / Kirchner
Left: Bustard and Guinea Hen, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, 1739
Right: Rhinoceros, Johann Gottlieb Kirchner, about 1731
Image left: Staatliches Museum Schwerin; image right: Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Porzellansammlung

Another artist inspired by Dürer's print was Johann Gottlieb Kirchner, chief sculptor of the Meissen porcelain manufactory, who brings the print to life with a fantastic porcelain rhinoceros (above right). This sculpture was commissioned by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony, to be part of a cost-effective porcelain menagerie at his Japanese Palace in Dresden. At the Getty Center you can see two of the Meissen specimens intended for this menagerie—A Fox with a Chicken (1732) and A Turkey (1733). The major difference between these two figures and Kirchner's rhino is that the Getty figures are monochromatic (single-colored), while the rhinoceros is polychromatic (multi-colored), with colors corresponding to Dürer's description of the creature.

To see more porcelain, look for objects from the manufactories at Sèvres and Vincennes throughout the South Pavilion.

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