Toy Dogs in Art Part I The Italian Greyhound

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Toy Dogs in Art Part I The Italian Greyhound

by Connie Limon

Fortunately for us, the members of the royal and noble families of Spain were particularly attached to dogs, especially toy dogs. Many of the famous painters of the time painted family portraits which included their dogs. Works by Velasquez, Murillo and Goya in particular painted portraits of royal families and their dogs, many of them being, ?toy dogs.?

The walls of Prado in Madrid are covered by portrait after portrait of dogs and their families or just dogs alone beautifully painted. Anyone very interested in dogs would certainly enjoy the experience of surveying the walls of Prado.

Numerous dogs have served as models for sculpture of all sorts as well.

The Prado has one of the best collections of art in the world. The fine paintings are not Spanish, nor are they paintings of the Spanish scene or family. The walls of Prado tell a story of European history in picture form. One typical example is a portrait painted by Jan Brueghel de Velours. The painting is of the interior of a collector?s room, painted in 1617. The artist included a tiny toy spaniel confronting a monkey in the foreground of the painting.

In this same painting there is a small white woolly dog which could be a bichon or a Maltese terrier sitting quietly underneath a table just watching what is going on but taking no part. HOW CUTE!

Artists have always been the recorders of their own times. The artists tell us something about the dogs that are still with us as well as about those that appear to have been lost to us today. In one of Tiziano?s paintings done earlier than de Velours, he included a dog that if the animal existed today, would be a glamorous-looking, long-haired Italian greyhound. One has to wonder, however, did this dog truly exist during that time or was this only in the mind of the painter.

The Italian greyhound was a favorite at court in both Spain and Italy centuries ago and appears frequently in paintings in the Prado. It has been noted that much to one?s surprise in one case the Italian Greyhound is painted with its ears cropped. This was quite unusual. Pugs looked fine with their ears cropped, but the Italian Greyhound with cropped ears? Once again I have to wonder if maybe some of these models of dogs in these famous paintings are just from the minds of the creator of the painting and not dogs that truly existed during their times. On the other hand, it could have been just an exceptional case and not the norm of that particular era. I have not personally seen this picture, have only read about others seeing it, but I have to admit the Italian greyhound would look every strange with its ears shortened.

It has been said that one of the most attractive paintings of an Italian greyhound was of one that appears in the portrait ?The Earl of Northampton? by Pompeo Battoni in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. He was a large size for his period in the mid-eighteenth century. At this time the Italian Greyhound was really miniaturized. The portrait is said to be of a beautiful specimen, with all the elegance and grace of the breed.

This series: ?Toy Dogs in Art? continues in Part II.

This article is FREE to publish with the resource box.

Author: Connie Limon. Visit us at and sign up for our newsletters. About Toy Dogs is a guide to the selection and care of toy dog breeds. We feature articles, dog books and a toy dog breeder directory. Purchase a full page ad with 3 pictures, a 12 picture video, advertising in our newsletters and article marketing promotion. To my knowledge no other toy dog breeder directory offers this same package of advertising services to the toy dog breeder.

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