Museum Hours
Thu: 1 PM–8 PM
Fri–Mon: 10 AM–5 PM
Tue–Wed: Closed
200 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Elephants Without Number

Nov 24, 2015 – Jun 26, 2016

Elephants are more than just the massive, captivating creatures we admire in zoos and photographs. They’re complex, social creatures — intelligent and outgoing, capable of expressing joy and sadness. They also have a long and storied presence in Indian mythology, art and culture.
This intimate exhibition reveals the central position of elephants in the Indian cultural landscape. They hold a prominent place in Buddhist, Jain and Hindu religious traditions, and were popular subjects for Western artists traveling through India in the 1800s.

In paintings, sketches, prints and sculptures, you’ll see elephants in multiple roles. They’re depicted as beloved possessions of kings, majestic carriers of royal riders in processions, valuable assets on both hunting grounds and battlefields, and transporters of heavy loads.

Through Elephants Without Number, discover how these impressive animals have inspired artists’ imaginations for centuries.

How to Dress an Elephant

Discover how an elephant would have been dressed for a royal procession in India.

Read More on Elephants

Additional resources and recommended reading from Qamar Adamjee, Associate Curator, South Asian and Islamic Art.

The full text of Captain Mundy’s engaging journal, with engravings by Thomas Landseer. Volume 1 | Volume 2

The Elephant Buried Under the Vatican by Sarah Laskow,, November 23, 2015.

The Elephant’s Journey by José Saramago, Mariner Books, 2011.

The Medici Giraffe by Marina Belozerskaya, Little, Brown and Company, 2006.

Main image: Elephants’ quarters at the camp of the Maharaja of Holkar (detail), 1867, by William Simpson (British, 1823–1899). Lithograph and lithotint. Asian Art Museum, From the Collection of William K. Ehrenfeld, M.D., 2005.64.100. Photograph © Asian Art Museum.

Organizers & Sponsors

Elephants Without Number is organized by the Asian Art Museum.