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 in simple terms from old texts, and a anonymous monster? As Juan Pimentel explains, the reactions replicate deep highbrow adjustments but additionally the iconic strength of picture and mind's eye to form our knowing of the typical world.
We comprehend the rhinoceros at the present time 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 through a caricature from Lisbon. however the impression of his notable paintings mirrored a gentle flow clear of old authority to the dissemination in print of latest principles and pictures. by the point the megatherium arrived in Spain, that circulation had remodeled technological know-how. whilst released drawings came across their technique to Paris, the good zoologist Georges Cuvier safely deduced that the big bones should have belonged to an extinct mammoth sloth. It used to be a pivotal second within the discovery of the prehistoric world.
The Rhinoceros and the Megatherium bargains a penetrating account of 2 striking episodes within the cultural historical past of technological know-how and is itself a vibrant instance of the clinical mind's eye at paintings.
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Additional info for The Rhinoceros and the Megatherium. An Essay in Natural History
Its body was like that of a horse, its head like that of a stag, its feet like those of an elephant, and its tail like that of a wild boar. All of this was crowned, of course, by the long black horn in the middle of its forehead. For the ancient Chinese, for example, the qilin, an animal much like a unicorn, occupied a privileged position alongside the tortoise and creatures comparable to the Western dragon and phoenix, all four being endowed with high spiritual value. In Persian culture the unicorn is connected with danger and cruelty.
That is how King Manuel I wanted it. In fact, the Portuguese monarch took advantage of the opportunity to present his country as the worthy successor to the Roman Empire. As the Portuguese paraded through the Eternal City toward Belvedere Palace, they displayed their parrots, cocks, silks, and jewels, a Persian horse from the King of Ormuz, the wild cats, and the impressive elephant, as white as the pope himself though considerably younger. Some eyewitnesses stated that the snow leopard was carried in a cage mounted on the hindquarters of the Persian horse.
At the age of thirteen he had been appointed cardinal, thereby gaining access to the Curia. He wanted François I to be made emperor, but ended up supporting Charles V once he had realized that there was no stopping him anyway. Giovanni favored his relatives whenever he could, even creating a duchy for one of his illegitimate sons. The list of his maneuvers would be long. It would be difficult to say whether more or less so than Sultan Muzafar II or Emperor Frederick II, although everything points to his having been in a different league.
The Rhinoceros and the Megatherium. An Essay in Natural History by Juan Pimentel, Peter Mason