Skip to main content

The Besieged Elephant

Alart du Hameel, Netherlandish, 1449–1507
Jan van Doetechum the Elder, Dutch, (active 1554–1605)
Lucas van Doetechum, Dutch, (active 1554–1572)
Hieronymus Cock, Netherlandish, 1510–1570
Etching and engraving
Made in
Netherlands, Europe
Antwerp, Antwerpen, Belgium, Europe
Published in
Antwerp, Antwerpen, Belgium, Europe
Current Location
Not on view
sheet (trimmed between image and platemark): 15 5/8 × 21 1/2 in. (39.7 × 54.6 cm)
Credit Line
Anonymous Gift
Public Domain
Object Number
The elephant at the center of this oversize print bears the weight of an entire army. Dozens of helmeted soldiers armed with crossbows, swords, and projectiles are ensconced in a fantastical turreted structure fastened atop his back. Even the elephant has gone on the defensive and seized an opponent forcefully in his massive trunk. The print’s overarching message seems to warn mankind to beware of the dangers of extreme aggression. Although an inscription on the print identifies Hieronymus Bosch as its “inventor,” no such composition by the celebrated Netherlandish painter survives. Rather, this print’s inspiration came from a now-rare engraving by Bosch’s contemporary, Alart du Hameel. Hameel may well have adapted imagery from Bosch’s devilish inventions. Created decades later, this print was one of many that reinterpreted and updated Boschian themes for a new generation. In one such update, the many animals fighting alongside soldiers in the earlier version by Hameel are absent here, and all focus turns to the challenges of humanity.
Scroll back to top