Rembrandt's Elephant
Following in Hansken's Footsteps

By Michiel Roscam Abbing

Rembrandt's Elephant

1 May until 25 July 2021 - Exhibition in Museum Het Rembrandthuis in Amsterdam about Hansken the Elephant. The author Michiel Roscam Abbing will be the guest-curator. His book Rembrandt's Elephant will be the catalogue of the exhibition. (delayed because of Corona virus)

Completely new and extended version of the original 2006 publication. The author presents many new findings on the elephant’s itinerary, new images and stunning facts.

Hansken is by far the most famous elephant of the seventeenth century. Brought to Holland at the request of the Prince of Orange, she arrived in Amsterdam in the summer of 1633. Her arrival did not go unnoticed. The elephant was at once a major attraction. Until her death in Florence in 1655, she would continue to astound the public with her fixed repertoire of tricks, including fencing with a sword and firing a pistol. Kings, students, scholars, preachers and travelers, everyone was interested. Hansken’s host of admirers included Rembrandt and Stefano della Bella, both of whom saw and drew her.


For many years a certain Cornelis Jacobs van Groenevelt criss-crossed Europe with the celebrated elephant. It is possible to follow this triumphal journey using countless contemporary mentions and depictions.

By having researchers report information about Hansken to us, this site can serve to tell her story ever more satisfactorily. Hansken remained of importance even after her death. Her skeleton is still preserved and was used by early naturalists to describe the species. Since 2013 she even counts as the type specimen for Elephas maximus


'Remarkable how a single circus animal can bring the Dutch Golden Age so vividly to life' - De Volkskrant



Additional Information:

Published 2016 (Leporello) - Complete English translation

ISBN: 9789079624195 – 136 pages - Colour & b/w illustr. - Paperback

Rights: World (excl. World English)