After our many discussions about human portraiture, I stumbled upon an article about the revival of pet portraiture in luxury fashion. Here is the link from Gale Cengage database, you may need to use your MoHo login to see it—
Apparently, pet portraiture originates from the Victorian Era with Queen Elizabeth I at its helm. She enjoyed commissioning portraits of her dogs; the aristocracy followed shortly after. Interestingly enough, it seems that Queen Elizabeth featured her pets in her own portrait in times of peace, shown by the following portrait done by Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder between 1580-1585. It remains Gheeraerts the Elder’s only surviving oil painting. We can see her tiny dog at the right bottom corner, at her feet with his gaze directed at her. He is cuddled close; she grasps an olive branch.
The trend continued with Victorian painters such as Sir Edwin Landseer in his painting of Windsor Castle—
And French painter, Gustave Courbet, of the same era in a self-portrait with his dog—
So why dogs? How did they function in portraits with others? As props? Supporting characters? I suppose this strange little branch of portraiture made me wonder about the way we use particular props in portraits in order to portray specific character traits or moods. This was especially true in our discussion of Lady Betty Delme (i.e. setting, displays of wealth, etc.) Furthermore, the presence of dogs in Victorian literature and art is remarkable and surprisingly evident—the presence of stray dogs in Oliver Twist, the expression of “dying like a dog,” in Dickens’ Great Expectations, Holmes’ Hounds of Baskerville, and then, of course, dogs in aristocratic portraiture. What do you guys think? Maybe some of you art history/art lovers can help me out with this one. There exists also a dichotomy between dog as man’s best friend and of bestiality (i.e “die like a dog”) which fascinates me. Also, I don’t know if you have ever seen these before, but I recall these prints being particularly popular in the early 90’s:
There was also a TV show I watched as a kid called Wishbone in which a Jack Russell Terrier plays lead characters from classic literature. The show’s episodes riff on Oliver Twist, Hounds of Baskerville, Scandal in Bohemia, Great Expectations, Pride & Prejudice, and Tom Sawyer. Such fun.
Anyways, I just wanted to post these for fun — (yes, people STILL do this)
Mason, Brook. “Sales happily go to the dogs A century after its Victorian heyday, pet portraiture is enjoying a lucrative renaissance. Brook Mason reports.” Financial Times 7 Apr. 2007: 9. Academic OneFile. Web. 12 Dec. 2014.