Byline: by Richard Edmonds
Whether you race dogs, show them, or simply cuddle them, this book, with its historical range from the Dark Ages onwards, is a must-have.
All kinds of painters are represented here in stunning colour plates which show the changing face of the denizens of the doggie kingdom.
They range from overworked mutts of the 15th Century, who did everything from turning cooking spits to pulling work carts, to the chic canine aristocrats of the 18th century French court.
These were the hunting dogs, beloved of the kings of France who sported elegant names (no doubt on gold collars) such as Pompee or Florissant. Here were dogs every bit as snobbish as their masters, patrons who invited the best artists of the day to take a likeness of their pampered pooches.
Portraits of dogs go back a long way into early history and they appear at the court of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs. In fact, an illustration in this fascinating book, shows a cave painting from the Arabian desert which is at least 5,000 years old and depicts a hunter setting his dog onto an ostrich.
If archaeology interests you, then you may be keen to know that the creature which lollops around your house, leaving hairs all over the furniture along with demands to be taken out with its pooper-scooper twice a day, is our oldest non-human companion, with wolves as its actual ancestors.
Wolf skulls found in Paleolithic caves in southern France, indicate that humans and wolves have shared territory for more than a 100,000 years.
In fact, the oldest bone of an animal whose teeth are distinctly dog-like dates back 14,000 years and was found in Germany with a counterpart discovered in Iraq and Israel.
It is curious to think that the pampered, vaguely smelly, darlings, that women cradle so lovingly to their breasts came from the wolf, the most feared animal humans have known, with its propensity to attack.
It's even more curious when you see that the great artists of the Renaissance could turn a favoured animal into a work of art.
Titian is especially featured here since he was instructed to incorporate a rather nice-looking dog into a 16th century portrait of Federico Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua.
Yet Titian's affectionate dog is no more appealing than the canine beauties painted by the great Jacopo Bassano at around the same time. …