"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Alpine Mastiffs

This 1820 painting entitled Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler  by Sir Edwin Landseer is a recent acquisition by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
Wikipedia describes the painting this way:
One of {Landseer's} earliest paintings is credited as the origin of the myth that St. Bernard rescue dogs in the Alps carry a small casket of brandy on their collars. Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveller (1820) shows two of the dogs standing over a man who is partially buried in snow. One is barking to attract attention while the other, who is depicted with the miniature barrel, attempts to revive the man by licking his hand. -- Wikipedia, See also: Soniak, 2009
The Lick of Life...

Landseer said this of an engraving of this painting:
As depicted in our engraving, when the Dogs are sent forth on their humane mission, one of them has a flask or small keg of brandy suspended from his collar; the other has signal bells, by means of which the monks are conducted to the particular spot where their services may be needed, and is also provided with a sufficient quantity of warm, woollen drapery, which is wrapped and buckled round his body, and in which the shivering sufferer, if able, may enwrap himself.
 The Distressed Traveler

The Searchers

Landseer  says of dogs in general that:
Of the quadrupedal portion of creation, the Dog is pre-eminently the sympathising companion and attached friend of man...
The Connoisseurs
1865 Self-Portrait
by Sir Edwin Landseer

And he says of Alpine Mastiffs in particular:
The superb Alpine Mastff's which we have essayed to represent, and who reside in considerable numbers with the hospitable monks of the great St. Bernard, are not merely a credit to their kind, but, if frail man might be permitted thus to express his sentiment of appreciation, are an honour to the creative energy itself, not unworthy of being classed with the most interesting and grand of Nature's productions.

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