Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dogs in Medieval Tapestries

Post civil war photos reveal a lot about what breeds looked like in the past, and paintings going back to the 1600s tell a story, too.  But information about breed shapes and sizes is sketchy prior to the 16th century.  So historians look to tapestries, embroidered wall hanging that warmed and colored otherwise drab grey walls.  The hunt was a common tale, so hunting breeds are often featured.

This Devonshire Hunting Tapestry, made in the Netherlands about 1440,  illustrates a deer hunt.
The dogs look like sighthounds, maybe Greyhounds?


From a piece commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, the scene below features the young emperor deer hunting.  The German piece dates to 1515.
Three breeds are involved - two sighthounds, and maybe a spaniel, along with a scenthound.

The scenthound looks like a baying dog,
perhaps the predecessor to the Bloodhound.


Woven as early as 1370,  this Italian silk brocade tapestry features a stylized dog interacting with a raptor.  Before the invention of the firearm,  hunters used dogs and falcon to hunt game.

From a set of five prints representing the five senses, the etching below was probably used as a draft for a tapestry at Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, England.  The figure is engaged in an activity relating to the sense she portrays.  She is smelling a rose, and the dog is sniffing the ground.

Maybe a Foxhound or Beagle?
A dozen tapestries featuring the king in some seasonal activity representing each month were hung in twelve of Louis XIV's sixteen royal residences.  In this one, Louis is hunting in the background and his pets are featured in the foreground.


The dog looks like a miniature spaniel.

The Unicorn Tapestries are considered the best surviving set of medieval tapestries in the world. Seven pieces tell the story of a unicorn hunt.


This is a detail.  Read a good post about the Stirling Tapestries
These must be Unicorn Hounds, apparently now extinct.
Embroidered by Mary, Queen of Scots around 1570 while under house arrest by order of Queen Elizabeth I, the panel below bears Mary's monogram and an image of her dog, Jupiter.  Mary surrounded herself with dogs and when she was beheaded in 1587,  a Skye Terrier had been hiding in her petticoats, shocking spectators.  Following the execution, the dog refused to leave her mistress's body.
Panel from the Oxburg Hangings,  around 1570
The tapestries in this post are from the Victoria and Albert Museum collection.

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