23 April, 2010

Hanno the Elephant

HannoManuel I of Portugal
Hanno, a pet white elephant, was part of the huge embassy king Dom Manuel I of Portugal sent in 1514 to the new pope, Leo X. The King of Portugal had himself received the elephant as a gift from the King of Cochim. Hanno arrived to Rome in a vessel sent from Lisbon with about four years old.
Sketch of Hanno by Raphael
The elephant and his tamer, after Raphael
In the King's embassy, who crossed the city for the delight of the Romans, also came two leopards, a panther, some rare parrots, turkeys and Indian horses. Hanno loaded a silver castle in its back containing a box with the royal gifts, between which vestments embroidered with precious pearls and huge gems and gold coins.
The Pope received the embassy at Castel Sant'Angelo where the elephant kneel three times in reverence signal and later, obeying to his Indian tamer, it inhaled water from a fountain with its trunk and sneezed it on the multitude and the cardinals. For a short time Hanno was kept in a belvedere but later he passed to a building especially constructed for the effect between St. Peter's Basilica and the Apostolic Palace.
The elephant became a favourite in the Papal Court making abilities for its amusement and participating in processions. Raphael and Pietro Aretino drew the fascinating animal and the chronicles of the time refer to Hanno as being extraordinary intelligent.
Two years after arriving Rome, Hanno suddenly got sick and although being treated died in June of 1516 with the Pope on its side and was buried in the Cortile del Belvedere.
Rhino by Albrecht Dürer
Like elephants, rhinoceros had not been seen in Europe since Roman times and in the Renaissance were considered sort of mythical beasts. Early in 1515 the arrival of a living specimen to King Manuel's court in Lisbon was a triumph.
This unique example of a rhino in the entire Europe was kept in the King's menagerie at Ribeira Palace. Soon after, Manuel decided to send it as a new gift to the Pope. Together with other precious gifts of silver plate and spices, the rhino embarked in December 1515 for a voyage to Rome. During the travel the vessel passed near Marseille in early 1516 near were King Francis I of France requested a viewing of the beast.
Unfortunately the ship was wrecked in a violent storm and the animal, chained and shackled to the deck to keep it under control, was unable to swim to safety and drowned. The carcass of the rhinoceros was recovered and returned to Lisbon where it was stuffed.