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Thomas Gainsborough was born in May 1727; hepassed in August
Several authors writing about Bearded Collies and Old
English Sheepdogs (not to mention many other breeds) claimed
that the dog in the Gainsborough's painting of the Third Duke of Buccleuch was an early, if not the earliest, example of their
breed, i.e., an Otterhound, a Norfolk water-spaniel, a water spaniel, a Bearded Collie, an Old English sheepdog
(bob-tail), or a Dandie Dinmont terrier, etc.
As an example, an excerpt from a Reader's Digest article stated:
"An Old English Sheepdog is easily recognized alongside
the Duke of Buccleuch in Gainsborough's portrait."
However, there were other viewpoints.
James Watson, The Dog Book (1909), stated in his section
entitled "The Bob-tailed Sheep Dog":
"Mr. Hopwood in his history of the
breed gives a reproduction of a Gainsborough portrait of the
Duke of Buccleuch, 1771, and says the dog with the Duke is a
bob-tail. Nothing of the kind; it is a large, rough
Scotch terrier with all the look of a Dandie. The dog is no
taller than an Irish terrier, for we put one alongside a
tall man in just the pose in the picture, and the top of his
clean head was as high as the head of the Duke's dog,
shaggy coat and all."
A mezzotint engraving (shown
below) was done in 1771 by John Dixon of the Gainsborough painting.
Other individuals speculated that the dog in the painting of Elizabeth, Duchess of Buccleuch
(with her daughter and two small dogs painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in
1772), was the same dog as the one in the Duke's portrait of the previous year.
Was the dog in the Duke's painting the same dog
in the Duchess' painting? Compare the dog in the Gainsborough painting
(middle top row) to the dog in the Reynolds' painting (middle bottom
row). Arguably Reynolds might have painted the dog in light colors, but
why would Reynolds have painted the dog's colors so differently from
what Gainsborough painted? In addition, looking at the size of the dog
compared to the Dachshund-like dog jumping up, it seems far more likely
the dog in the Reynolds' painting is a Dandie-Dinmont type of small dog
compared to a much larger breed.
The Dandie Dinmont's origin, like the Beardie, is
unknown. A Dandie Dinmont type of dog was
known to be living in both Scotland and England (primarily the
borderlands) by the mid-1700s. It is also written that the Dandie got his
generic name of Mustard Terrier or Pepper Terrier based upon
the farm from where it was bred. The
"pepper" name meant different shades of gray.
Regarding the dog in the Duke's picture above, it
certainly could be a Beardie-like dog. But since there does not seem to
be any written records from the Buccleuch estate describing the
dog as being a particular breed, one could just as easily
speculate that it was a mongrel. Since the four pictures in the corners
below are all Dandie-Dinmont images, one can easily see how confusion
Another piece of evidence might support the proposition that the dog in
the Duke's arms was similar to a Beardie-like dog. Gainsborough's most famous painting is "The Blue Boy"
(seen in this small image). It can be seen in the Huntington
Museum in California.
Blue Boy was a portrait of his friend, Jonathan Buttall, rendered in c.1700 while
Gainsborough was staying in Bath (one year prior to the Duke's
painting above). This canvas, however, had an unfinished painting beneath the finished
canvas. An x-ray image demonstrated that the dog was knee-high in height standing
next to Buttall.
Why Gainsborough painted over the dog is unknown. One scholar identified
the dog as a "shaggy water-spaniel." Perhaps such an assumption was made
because Gainsborough did sketch another shaggy dog (his wife's pet,
named Tristam) in the 1780s. Tristram has also been identified as a water spaniel. But there does not seem to
be any written evidence that Gainsborough himself described his, or his
wife's, pet dogs by a breed name. Tristam's image appears on "Gainsbrough-2."
Doing a comparison of the dog held by the Duke with the x-ray
image of the dog standing next to Buttall (Blue Boy) certainly presents
similarities. But to say that this dog was one of the
earliest paintings of a Bearded Collie, or any other breed, would only