Monday 21 August 2023

Epigram on a Picture of a Rhinoceros

Pietro Barozzi (1441-1507) - In Rhinocerontis Picturam,  
   Quam quidam sibi Italicorum Principum, versibus parum modestis subscribi fecit.

Rhinoceros pedibus melior, Leo viribus illum
   Qui fugis, hunc qui stas elige in arma, Ducem.
Sed cave, arenosum ne cum te litus ad usque
   Pertuleris, falsis praecipiteris aquis.
Nec te, quae falso jactantur, amara venena
   Interimant, tumidi sed magis unda Freti.
My translation:
On a picture of a Rhinoceros, underneath of which, one of Italy's leading citizens fashioned some unassuming verses:
The rhinoceros is swift on foot; the lion, who flees from him is
   greater in strength. Favour the one who stands fast at arms, Duke.
But beware when you have reached the edge
   of the sandy shore, lest you fall into the treacherous waters.
And the bitter poisons deceptively tossed about
    do not kill you, but rather the wave of the swollen sea.

Petrus Barrocius, ‘Petri Barrocii patricii Veneti episcopi Bellunensis dein Patavini oratio consolatoria, et carminum libri tres’ in Anecdota Veneta nunc primum collecta ac notis illustrata, ed. by Giambattista Maria Contarini (Venice: Typis Petri Valvasensis, 1757), pp. 193-268. (p. 263).

pedibus melior. cf. Virgil, Aeneid, IX.556.

The rhinoceros’s horn was believed to neutralise poison.

The Gujarat sultan Muzaffar Shah II gifted a rhinoceros to king Manuel I of Portugal in 1515; sketches of it soon after reached Germany inspiring Albrecht Dürer's famous engraving, which in turn inspired several centuries of slightly fantastic depictions of rhinos. But what did this picture, from before the 1515 rhino exhibition in Lisbon, look like? Perhaps something imagined from Greek and Roman sources? Perhaps a unicorn? In any case, i will be looking out for more signs of quattrocento rhinoceroi.