Wednesday, June 18, 2008


In continuation of my dogs in the 18th century exhibition (exploration? obsession?) I thought I'd take a moment to talk about the images of Pugs in paintings. As I talked about here, the people of the 18th century were just as fond of their pets as we are, especially their dogs. One of the more popular breeds in England at this time (at least with the upper class) was the Pug due to its convenient size and winning personality.

The breed originated in Asia (although due to the ancient history of the breed it is not know where exactly) and throughout the centuries it became more and more common westward. It became the official dog of the House of Orange after one Pug saved the life of William, Prince of Orange by alerting him of the invading Spanish in 1572. When Josephine Bonaparte was imprisoned at Les Carmes her Pug, Fortune, would carry secret messages under his collar to her husband. It was even rumored that Fortune bit Napoleon when he entered Josephine's bedchamber on their wedding night, woof!

As can be seen from Hogarth's Self-Portrait with Pug, the Pug looked different 200 years ago. The snout and body were a bit longer then than they are now. The loyal and beloved Trump was immortalized in William Hogarth's self portrait, and depicted at the same level, and therefore, same importance as his master. This could be because both man and dog were known to be "pugnacious." Trump reappears as the watchful eye in Hogarth's portrait of the Strode Family. Another immortalized 18th century pug is Raton, who sits on his human, George Selwyn's lap in this portrait by Reynolds. Selwyn had an outlandish and rakish reputation so this sentimental portrait with his beloved pet softened how others viewed the crazy bachelor. Selwyn was reputedly totally devoted to his dog. This wasn't extremely unusual, William Duke of Devonshire (Georgiana's husband) was so obsessed with his dogs that his friends and even wife nicknamed him "Canis." Truth be told, they were the only things the man enjoyed spending time with!


  1. In this movie, the Duke of Devonshire's dogs were ENGLISH POINTERS .... handsome as they are, they were actually not developed as such until the 19th century. It's the shape of their noses/muzzles. It would have been more authentic to have the Duke's dogs represented as current-day German pointers, which are closer in appearance to their 18th-century counterparts.

    Ticia Robak

  2. Hi Tricia, I assume you are speaking of The Duchess. In my research I have not actually come across what breeds of dog the 5th Duke of Devonshire owned (although I know one was named Sydney). Now, you have reminded me I wanted to look into this.

    As you may have gathered from my other entries on this film, there wasn't a lot of importance on historical accuracy.