Jan Savery (Flemish, 1597-1654)

Elephant and Monkey, n.d.

Elephant and Monkey, n.d.

Chalk on paper 5 1/2 in. x 8 1/2 in. (13.97 cm x 21.59 cm)

Crocker Art Museum, E. B. Crocker Collection


  • The nephew of Roelandt Savery, who became court painter of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II in Prague, Jan was born in Haarlem. He likely first trained under his father, Jacob, also a painter. After his father’s death in 1603, Jan became close to his uncle. He accompanied him to Prague in the 1610s and worked with him in Utrecht upon his return in 1619. He took over his uncle’s studio after the latter’s death in 1639.
    Both Roelandt and Jan were especially interested in natural history, creating many scenes of exotic animals. It is not clear whether the emperor’s menagerie or the busy trade cities of the Netherlands provided them the opportunity to examine the creatures firsthand, but the two artists skillfully captured the unusual anatomy and habits of their subjects. Here, a nit- picking monkey pauses from cleaning the back of an elephant, a palm frond held in his paw. The elephant’s expression as he submits to this treatment makes him an especially sympa- thetic subject. Two other elephants, showing the animal from different angles, appear in the background.

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