Man’s Best Friend (Woman’s too)

August 24, 2016


Women have long loved their dogs. This Bronzino portrait of a Lady in Red in 1533 depicts an elegantly attired woman with a dog on her lap. They both seem poised and alert. And resemble each other.


Painting dogs has been popular for thousands of years, in many different cultures. This scratching dog, rather fondly humorous, is on a cup from Greece in about 500 BC.



The love of dogs transcends any one culture. Greek, Egyptian, European paintings all featured man’s best friend. These two graceful dogs were painted in China in 1427.



During the same century, Uncello in Italy painted this splendid “Hunt in the Forest”



In the detail below, you can see that the dogs seem mayhap smarter than the master atop the horse.   Dogs ARE smart



Painting dogs was exceedingly fashionable until the twentieth century.  For over five hundred years, European portraits routinely included the beloved household dogs.


This portrait, by Titian no less, includes a charming portrait of a dog  alongside  a fabulous woman in Titian’s Portrait of Venus of Urbino in 1538.

The lady is so frankly erotic that it’s easy to overlook the dog sleeping alongside her feet.   (But, to eliminate the dog from the painting would diminish the calm implied by a sweet sleeping dog…)



This 16th century portrait again seems to demonstrate that dogs and their owners often resemble each other. Albeit in this instance that may not necessarily be a compliment to either.



This is a photo of Watson our family dog.  Neither my husband nor I can boast of similar ears. 

Photography moved into the capture-the-image business while painting became frequently more interpretive or abstract.   The tradition of joint dog-and-master portraits essentially ceased in the 20th century, perhaps because cameras took up the job of immortalizing our fine furry friends, just as they frequently capture lasting remembrances of our beloved human family members.

Albeit just as there is something special about commissioning a portrait of a family member, it’s still marvelous when a talented painter captures the essence of your very best friend. 


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