How art fell in love with the humble pooch

An 1819 portrait of Tawney, the 6th Duke of Devonshire's spaniel, by Peter Wenceslaus
An 1819 portrait of Tawney, the 6th Duke of Devonshire's spaniel, by Peter Wenceslaus Credit: Glen Segal

A new exhibition showcases a dogged devotion to our four-legged friends. Seán Williams reports

In 1766, the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau fled France for the southern side of the Peak District, his radical thoughts on politics and religion having made him a fugitive on the Continent. His companion on this dangerous journey was his faithful, four-legged friend, Sultan, and that summer, Rousseau regularly tramped the moorlands, collecting botanical specimens, with Sultan by his side.

The spaniel cross was not just the philosopher’s pet; he was his inspiration and his muse – for Rousseau believed that dogs represented the apogee of natural sociability and virtue; the “sentimental” companionship...

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