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Style Other / Ref.11170

Important portrait of a Great Dane, oil on canvas

Width: 69'' ⅝  177cm
Height: 56'' ¾  144cm

France, 19th century

This important oil on canvas depicting an Harlequin Great Dane, short-haired dog breed that is known for its particularly giant size, was made in the 19th century. Lying on a cloth, straight head, the dog is represented in an extremely dignified attitude conferring on him a certain nobility. Also known as "The Apollo of the Dogs", the Great Dane is appreciated for its beauty and sociable character along with a strong sensitivity. This makes it the ultimate pet dog although its imposing size requires a spacious environment.
This is what this painting tells us, conceived as a real portrait which is a real innovation of animal painting in the 19th century. The dog, well-behaved, seems to hang the pose as his master would do. Moreover, it is easy to imagine that this painting took place among the family portraits gallery in a rich house, alongside its masters, as a true member of the family.

It was Théophile Gautier who, in 1855 in Les Beaux-Arts en Europe, baptized for the first time the painters representing animals of "animal painters". Indeed, the latter had been struck by paintings of animals classified at the World’s Fair among the landscapes. It is true that, even if animal painting is not really recognized as such until late in the century thanks to the constitution of the Salon and Society of animal artists, landscape paintings with animals or animals within a landscape are numerous in the 19th century. From now on, animals found in the fields and forests of France and pets have their place in artistic representations.
Thus, at the end of the 19th century, the Salon of animal painters, the Salon of equine artists and the Salon of Hunting Painters and Sculptors were created in Paris. The latter was launched at the initiative of the Central Canine Society, presided over by the Prince de Wagram. It will be held from 1890 to 1912 in the Orangery of the Tuileries Garden, chaired by Jules Bertrand Gélibert.
The real innovation of animal painting in the 19th century is the accuracy of the anatomical drawing, allowed by long years of study of the animal world. This desire for realism invites the painters to represent the animal in its natural environment, like Rosa Bonheur, Constant Troyon or the entire Barbizon school.

In the continuity of this movement, the representation of a pet as a true portrait develops, as attested by this portrait of a Great Dane. The look directed to the viewer and the very large dimensions of the canvas show the importance of this dog, which was truly equal to any member of the family. The realism of the representation is as anatomical as it is expressive, while giving an almost sentimental image of this loved one.