We know nothing of the original provenance of this low-relief, obviously to be embedded in a wall. Was it the base of a door frame, with its pendant on the other side, or part of a monument such as the one outside the church of Santa Corona in Vicenza, sustaining an obelisk?
We find in Occident representations of elephants from the twelfth century, but must wait until 1514 to see a living elephant in Italy : the famous Hanno, a present of King Manuel Ist of Portugal to Pope Leo X for his enthronement, which arrived in Rome in 1514, but died in 1516 (of course, we don’t forget Hannibal’s elephants). It arose great curiosity, was portrayed by Raphael, and carved in a low-relief frieze in the courtyard of the Baldassini palace (the Pope’s lawyer) in Rome, built by Sangallo the younger from 1514 to 1519.
Elephant is also the symbol of Sigismondo Malatesta (1417-1468), tyrant of Rimini: we fin dit on the low-reliefs of the tempio Malatesta, vast monument to the glory of the dynasty, begun in 1447 and left uncompleted at the tyrant’s death, but also sustaining the tomb of his third and last wife, Isotta died in 1468).
In Christian symbolic, elephant symbolizes baptism, but also chastity, constancy, self control, wisdom. It represents the four pillars of the world, which it sustains on his back. It is also associated to memory, benevolence, and longevity.
Private Italian collection
3 500 €