Clara was unfamiliar, impressively large, and strange to behold – in short, she was different from any other animal. Clara the Rhinoceros tells the marvellous story of the most famous rhinoceros in history.

In 60 objects including paintings, drawings, medallions, sculptures, books and clocks never seen together before, you’ll see how new knowledge changed people’s perceptions of the rhinoceros, and how art played a big role in this process.


Though it’s difficult to imagine now, until Clara arrived in the Netherlands, pretty much everything Europeans knew about the rhinoceros came from a print made in 1515. That all changed in 1741, when the Dutch sea captain Douwe Mout van der Meer brought Clara to Amsterdam from India. For the next 17 years, she toured towns and cities all over Europe, attracting big crowds.

Clara became a superstar of the 18th century. Scientists studied her, and artists marvelled at her appearance. The exhibition tells the story of Clara’s life and how her presence changed our perception of the rhinoceros, from a semi-mythical beast to a real live animal. This is perfectly illustrated in the exhibition by two images: the very first print portraying the rhinoceros, made by Albrecht Dürer in 1515; and the life-size, full-length portrait of Clara by Jean-Baptiste Oudry, dating from 1749.


Though Clara was greatly admired, she was also something of a fairground attraction, and she never mixed with other rhinoceroses. So despite her star status, how happy would she have been? Her story also touches on the relationship between humans and animals. It’s an issue raised by contemporary artist Rossella Biscotti in her 2016 installation Clara. This work reveals that colonialism, exoticism, exploitation and power are also part of Clara’s story.

This exhibition runs concurrently with the Crawly Creatures exhibition.


There are several ways to delve into de exhibition’s subjects. The audio tour, with Sosha Duysker and curators Jan de Hond and Gijs van der Ham, guides you along the art works in the exhibitions. In the Artist talk with Rossella Biscotti you learn more about the contemporary art works you see in the exhibition.


The exhibition is accompanied by the book Clara the Rhinoceros, by Gijs van der Ham. 


The exhibition is made possible in part by two private donors through the Rijksmuseum Fonds.

30 Sept. - 15 Jan. 2023
Philips wing


  • Adults: €20
  • Free for 18 and under
  • Free for Friends

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Start time

A visit starts with a start time. You can book one here.

Only Friends of the museum can come when they want without booking.


Museumstraat 1
1071 XX Amsterdam


Wheelchair access
Guide dogs allowed
Lifts on every floor


In the whole museum you can only pay with your favourite digital payment method or credit card. This applies to all shops and catering outlets.


Free cloak room
Photography allowed
Free WiFi

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Superstar in the 18th century