A Live Elephant and Prague Court Festivities in 1570

Pages 34–40, 43
Keywords elephant – Gradual of Sixtus of Ottersdorf – illuminated manuscripts – literati brotherhood at the church of Our Lady before Týn in Prague – court festivities – exotic animals in Renaissance Europe
Type of Article Peer-reviewed
Citation ŠÁROVCOVÁ, Martina . A Live Elephant and Prague Court Festivities in 1570. Acta Musei Nationalis Pragae – Historia litterarum. Prague: National Museum, 2014, 59(1-2), 34–40, 43. ISSN 0036-5351. Also available from: https://publikace.nm.cz/en/periodicals/amnphl/59-1-2/a-live-elephant-and-prague-court-festivities-in-1570
Acta Musei Nationalis Pragae – Historia litterarum | 2014/59/1-2

In the Gradual of Sixtus of Ottersdorf, deposited in the British Library in London (Add. 16175), there is a miniature of an elephant with triumphant trophies on its back. The commemorative inscription attached to the figure of the elephant identifies it as the life elephant that was part of the court festivities on Old Town Square on 26 February 1570. Contemporary printed and manuscript sources describing the course of the Prague festivities and tournaments in 1570 have been preserved. The miniature from the gradual is a unique visual source, which, even despite minor iconographic licence, matches the particular passage by Zirfeo Schwartzkünstler describing the Prague feast. The elephant had been given to Emperor Maximilian II in 1563 by the Infante Carlos of Spain. The exotic pachyderm has been documented in several triumphal processions during the court festivities of Emperor Maximilian II; using the written and visual sources preserved, it is possible to follow the elephant’s journey around European cities.

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