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The year of the dog

15 February 2018 by Scott Smith

February marks the start of the new lunar year, and it’s during this time that millions of people across the world will gather to celebrate Chinese New Year. Starting on 16 February, we’ll have seven days of joyous festivities filled with fireworks, lanterns and revelry as the city is lit up in red.

This year is the beginning of the Year of the Dog, defined by the Chinese zodiac cycle. Dogs are the eleventh sign in the zodiac and are seen as independent, sincere and decisive. Honest and loyal, dogs are the truest friends and most reliable partners. Those born in 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006 all fall under the year of the dog.

To celebrate man’s most faithful of friends, we’ve pulled together a list of dogs from across National Museums Liverpool’s collections and exhibitions.

‘Table d’Hote at a Dogs’ Home’ by John Charles Dollman

This humorous picture captures a dog’s life at meal time. Dollman (1851-1934) was an English painter of imaginative subjects and often included animals in his amusing compositions. At a trough, eating, growling and begging are dogs of various breeds and sizes eager to get started on dinner.  This painting, which is not currently on display, is from the Walker Art Gallery’s collection. 

Terracotta dog

This terracotta dog was buried with the Chinese Emperor Jing, along with hundreds of pottery animals, so that he would have an eternal supply of food in the afterlife. The animals were depicted realistically and included a wide range of domestic species. The painted pottery animals were mass produced in workshops using moulds and were fired in kilns. You can see this Terracotta dog in our China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors exhibition at World Museum.

The Piermaster’s Dog

This little dog is from a collection of photographs taken by David E Smith, who specialised in atmospheric images of Liverpool’s docks and especially the last remaining tall ships on the Mersey. This image and many other appears in the book ‘Tall Ships on Camera’, published in 1992, two years after his death in 1990. The Maritime Archives and Library holds some prints and the negatives of his images.

Netsuke dog

This is a netsuke of a Pekinese-type dog. A netsuke is a small, carved toggle that was commonly used in Japan from the 17th to 19th centuries at a time when traditional clothing had no pockets. Everyday items, such as money, tobacco and medicine, were carried around in pouches attached to a belt by a netsuke.

This netsuke dog is part of World Museum’s ethnology collections. It isn’t currently on display but you can see other examples of netsuke in the World Cultures gallery at World Museum.

‘The Hunted Slaves’ by Richard Ansdell

Not all dogs are friendly pooches. These deadly dogs feature in this painting by Richard Ansdell, which on display in the International Slavery Museum. Painted in 1851, the painting is a powerful indictment of Slavery in the United States at the time. It shows two enslaved people who have escaped into the wilderness only to be hunted down by a pack of savage dogs. The picture dates from the same year as the outbreak of the American Civil War.

Anubis

Very early on in Egyptian history the jackal was an animal associated with death and cemeteries. This may be because people were seeking magical protection against jackals which fed on the dead at night. To ease their minds, the jackal became associated with Anubis, a guardian of the cemetery rather than a scavenger.

As the god of mummification and protector of the dead, Anubis was an important god and images of him frequently feature in Egyptian art. You can see several depictions of Anubis in the Ancient Egypt gallery at World Museum.

The Speke dog skeleton

In the late 1970s repair work was carried out in the Billiard Room of Speke Hall and the opportunity was taken to carry out an archaeological excavation under the floor. Amongst the archaeological finds there was the skeleton of a medieval dog, dating from around 1550. Sadly, the dog had no head and only three legs. The circumstances of the lost body parts are something of a mystery. We cannot tell whether these horrible injuries occurred before or after the dog died, and if after death, whether before or after burial. One theory is that they may have been lost during later alterations to the house.

The remains of the skeleton are now on display in the History Detectives gallery at the Museum of Liverpool.

‘Fidelity’ by Briton Rivière

‘Fidelity’ shows a poacher and his faithful dog awaiting trial in prison. The laws against poaching in the Victorian era were administered with great but declining severity. Rivière took the opportunity in this painting to combine two of his favourite subjects, the poacher, and the dog as a companion in hardship. The Art Journal critic particularly admired the dog, describing how it was “very admirable for the expression of sympathy and pity he bestows upon his master.”

You can see this painting on display at the Lady Lever Art Gallery and prints are available from our online shop.

Boxer dog-shaped pipe

This pipe bowl, in the shape of a boxer dog’s head, is part of a collection of personal items that belonged to John Henry Hesketh, Junior 2nd Engineer on board RMS Titanic. He was from Kirkdale and joined Liverpool’s White Star Line as an apprentice aged 14. He served aboard several ships and when he joined Titanic in 1912 he was 33 years old.

Hesketh was in Boiler Room 6 when Titanic collided with the iceberg, and scrambled through the doorway of the passage into Boiler Room 5 before the watertight door closed. Sadly he died in the sinking, and his body was never recovered.

The pipe and other personal items were donated to Merseyside Maritime Museum by his great-niece, Mrs Barbara M Beagan. It is currently on display in Titanic and Liverpool: the untold story.

Cerberus

This depiction of the Cerberus, the three-headed dog, is part of a statuette of the god Serapis. The object is one of the 400 items from the collections of Henry Blundell donated to World Museum in 1959.  Cerberus was the monstrous hound that guarded the entrance to the Underworld and he is a companion of the Greek god of the underworld Hades. Serapis, or Sarapis, is a god made up during Ptolemaic Egypt combining Greek and Egyptian gods.

This statuette is on display in the Ancient Egypt gallery at World Museum.

‘Dog with a Slipper’ by Edwin Henry Landseer

This black retriever belongs to a painting from the Sudley House collection. It is shown holding a green slipper in its mouth while waiting patiently at the cottage door to be let in. Landseer has captured the wonderful effect of the dog’s fluffy fur by using broad coarse brush strokes and small specks of white to create texture and tone.

We hope you enjoyed our roundup of our best canines! Did you have a favourite? Let us know below.

We will be celebrating Chinese New Year with a series of events across our venues.  Best wishes in the New Year and Gong Hey Fat Choy/Gong Xi Fa Cai!

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