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Thomas Gainsborough was born in May 1727; hepassed in August of 1788.

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 occurred.

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 be speculation.


 

 
 
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