An Exotic Elephant
Three hundred years ago, wealthy Europeans loved to collect objects like this rare porcelain elephant from China. They thought these were fun and unique objects to have in their homes.
A lot of people in Europe were fascinated by wild creatures. Exotic animals from around the world could be seen in France. In 1775, a visitor to the Grand Zoo in Paris would have seen two tigers, several kinds of monkeys, an armadillo, an ocelot, and a condor. The royal zoo at the French palace of Versailles had lions, cranes, an elephant, a rhinoceros, and a zebra on view. Those who had enough money and were looking for unusual pets could purchase parrots, flying squirrels, and capuchin monkeys for their own menageries.
This statue doesn't look like a real elephant. The Chinese artist transformed the huge, powerful beast into a cartoon-like figure. It strikes an odd pose for such a large animal. In fact, it's sitting more like a dog than an elephant. The artist probably copied the pose of a dog, and added the head, trunk and tusks of an elephant.
Why would an artist do that? Maybe because statues of elephants are thought to bring good luck and good fortune to their owners. In China, the elephant is a symbol of strength and high moral standards.