Elephants have long been a majestic symbol of power and strength in Asian culture and art (and later Western art) for many, many centuries. These noble and exotic creatures have captivated the fascination of many, so it is not surprising that the elephant motif has been incorporated into the decorative arts as well. It is interesting to see a Western representation of the elephant in the Meissen piece below, first designed back in 1745. At this time, most Europeans had only heard of vague descriptions of the animal, which explains the unusual form of this particular porcelain elephant. Of course, the most common depiction of the elephant in the decorative arts is of the animal attired in lavish and regal decoration, thus adding to the animal's mysticism and exoticism. And the reason that the elephant is usually portrayed with its trunk upturned? This is also symbolic as it is a sign of good luck.
Pair of early 20th c. wooden baby elephant sculptures, available at 1st dibs
Meissen porcelain elephant, based on an original design by Johann Joachim Kaendler from 1745. Available at Moss. According to the Moss website, Kaendler based his design on descriptions of elephants, thus the rather unusual appearance of this elephant.
"Elephant Safari" fabric at Lewis & Sheron
"Krishna Battles the Armies of the Demon Naraka", part of the Bhagavata Purana manuscript which depicts the life of Krishna. Ink and opaque watercolor. India, c. 1520-30. Part of the collection at the Metropolitan Museum
Photo at top: Pillow with embroidered elephants in the home of Kelly Wearstler. Image from "Domicilium Decoratus".