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Edwin Landseer - High Life

by Stephanie Meier-Kaftan

The dog as a symbol of faithfulness and loyalty is very often found as a faithful companion in depictions of knights. The paintings of dogs created around the 1830s are among the most popular works of the English artist Sir Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-1873). Many of these works were commissions, sometimes life-size portraits of animals, while another part of his works were independent, small-scale works with a narrative context.

This representation belongs together with the painting "Low Life". In the work shown here, a Scottish deerhound represents the aristocratic world of chivalry. We are in the dog owner's chamber, the dog sits vigilantly next to his master's armchair and seems to guard his property. Not only the upscale room furnishings with the armchair, the large table and the curtains at the window but also some other objects indicate that the absent person is a knight.

In the background, through the window, you can see a castle tower with a waving flag. On the floor are falconer's gloves, and on the table are a rapier, a helmet, a breastplate, a decorated drinking vessel, books bound in leather, a half-rolled document, a quill pen, and a candlestick whose base is made of an eagle's claw.

Landseer had previously begun painting animal and historical pictures. In addition, like the British artist J.M.W. Turner, he also illustrated the works of the Scottish poet and writer Sir Walter Scott. Therefore, it was initially assumed that the dog shown here is Scott's dog Maida, but in its posture and coloring, the dog seems more similar to Landseer's own and immortalized in other paintings deer dog.

Edwin Landseer - High life

Oil on wood, 1829, 45,7 x 34,9 cm, Tate, London

Edwin Landseer - Low life

Oil on wood, 1829, 45.7 x 35.2 cm, Tate, London


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