top of page
CL 335 - The Dogs of St. Bernard
Dogs of St Bernard by George Baxter

George Baxter's last published print 'Dog's of St Bernard'

The Dogs of St. Bernard (CL 335) was one of the largest prints Baxter produced. It was published in 1859 and was the last print he published before his retirement, as confirmed in his own advertising poster for his sale in Bristol in 1861.

The print is after Sir Edwin Landseer, R.A.  who painted the original in 1820 when he was only 18 years of age, not 21 as stated by Courtney Lewis (CL) in his 1924 book ‘The Picture Printer’. Below we give background to the artist, the subject matter, look at the TWO versions of the painting and the other engravings of the subject before looking at Baxter’s version in colour. Also for the first time I will give full details of the woodcut Baxter published of the subject in 1833.

The Artist

Sir Edwin Henry Landseer R.A. was born in 1802 and is well known for his paintings of animals – particularly horses, dogs, and stags. However, his best known works are the lion sculptures at the base of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square in London. He was the son of the engraver John Landseer A.R.A. He was a prodigy and first exhibited at the Royal Academy at the age of just 13. He was elected an Associate at the age of 24, and an Academician five years later in 1831. He was knighted in 1850, and although elected to be president of the Royal Academy in 1866 he declined the invitation.

Queen Victoria commissioned numerous paintings from the artist. Initially being asked to paint various royal pets, he then moved on to portraits of ghillies and gamekeepers. Then, in the year before her marriage, the queen commissioned a portrait of herself, as a present for Prince Albert. He taught both Victoria and Albert to etch, and made portraits of Victoria's children as babies, usually in the company of a dog. He also made two portraits of Victoria and Albert dressed for costume balls, at which he was a guest himself. He died in 1873.

Information credit:

The Subject Matter

The Great Saint Bernard Pass runs for 49 miles across the Alps between Italy and Switzerland. It was named after Saint Bernard de Menthon who founded a hospice and a monastery there around the year 1050. The pass is snowbound for many months of the year. The servant guides and their dogs were credited with saving over 2,000 lives between 1750 and 1897.

The dogs that worked from the St Bernard’s Hospice were specially bred for their capabilities in the rough terrain and their great sense of smell. Once they had caught a scent they could dig a hole ten foot deep into the snow to rescue someone.

The painting shows the dog with a barrel around its neck and according to John Landseer’s 1831 book (see ‘engravings of the paintings’ below) is said to contain brandy, this must be incorrect. Edwin is credited as the source of this well-known urban myth but should this in fact be his father John? Possibly the dogs did have barrels around their necks but they wouldn’t have contained brandy which wouldn’t have been suitable for rescuing snow bound travellers. Although initially it would make you feel warmer by dilating the blood vessels and bringing the blood to the surface it would also divert the much needed blood away from the vital organs with possible devastating effects.

The most well-known dog was called ‘Barry der Menschenretter’ Barry the people rescuer or just Barry for short and over his 14 year career is credited with saving 40 lives. For many years these dogs were known as Barryhunds and were not called St Bernards, as we know them today until around 1865.

As of 2004, The Great St. Bernard hospice maintained an 18-dog roster for “tradition and sentiment”. A tunnel though the mountain was opened in 1964 alleviating most of the traffic across the pass.

Information credit:

The Painting

Landseer titled the painting “Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveller”.  It is oil on canvas and is a very large 74 ½ x 93 3/8 in. (189 x 237 cm.) It is signed and on the reverse is inscribed “painted in 1820'.



  • Jesse Watts Russell is stated as “to have been ‘Bought from the artist’, a manuscript annotation adding ‘cost 160 gs’.”

  • Jesse Watts Russell; his sale - Christie's, London, 3 July 1875, lot 29.

  • Richard Peacock; his sale - Christie's, London, 4 May 1889, lot 65, and 26 March 1892, lot 118.

  • Col. Ralph Peacock; his sale, Knight, Frank and Rutley, London, 31 October 1928.

  • Wildenstein & Co., New York.

  • Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge; her sale - Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 5 December 1975, lot 54.

  • Anonymous sale; (but quoted in various contemporary sources as being the sale of Jonathan ‘Jack’ Warner and the Gulf States Paper Corporation, Tuscaloosa, Alabama after their purchase above in Dec 1975) Sotheby's, New York, 4 June 1993, lot 61 ($525,000)

  • Christie’s, London, 7 December 2017 for £608,750

  • National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC via The Matthiesen Gallery



London, British Institution, 1820, no. 277.
Birmingham, Society of Artists, 1842, no. 250.
Manchester, Catalogue of the Art Treasures of the United Kingdom, 1857, no. 391.
Philadelphia, Museum of Art; and London, Tate Gallery, Sir Edwin Landseer, 25 October 1981-23 January 1982, no. 13.

Information credit:

A book was published in 1858 “Photographs of the Gems of the Art Treasures Exhibition Manchester 1857” by Signori Caldesi and Montecchi. The photograph of this painting states “Alpine Mastiffs” by E Landseer RA in the collection of J Watts Rufsell (sic) Esq confirming his ownership at the time of the 1857 exhibition.

Algernon Graves in his ‘Catalogue of the works of the late Sir Edwin Landseer’, undated but quoted widely as being published in 1876, says the original picture “was sold at his sale July 3 1875 Lot 29 for £2,257 10s to Messrs Agnew“- presumably the well-known London art dealers.

Franklin Kelly Discusses Sir Edwin Landseer's Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler” (1820)

Play Video

Franklin Kelly, chief curator of the National Gallery of Art in Washington discusses their new acquisition - Landseer's Alpine Mastiffs reanimating a distressed traveller' - courtesy of  The National Gallery of Art's Facebook page

The SECOND Painting

On 4th December 1996 Christie’s New York sold “ St Bernard Dogs” oil on canvas 18 x 24in (45.7 x 61cm which, according to the Christie’s sale listing for the larger painting on 7th December 2017, this smaller version is considered to be a finished preparatory study.

Christie’s 1996 sale referred to Algernon Graves’ catalogue which mentions the smaller finished picture. They went on to say that this version has differences to the larger version “The smaller version does not have the ‘St B’ on the red blanket nor the bells and detailed collar that appear in the larger painting. However the large version does not have the cork on the end of the barrel and the tree limbs in the background are slightly different. The tail of the standing dog is longer and not as white in the larger painting”…. “therefore it seems logical that our painting pre-dates the larger one” but gave no theory as to why they thought this.

This appears to be the 3rd time Christie’s have sold the painting, previous sales are noted by Christie’s as:

  • Joseph Gillott; sale, Christie's, London, April 26, 1872, lot 223 (1,740 gns.) purchased by ….

  • S. Addington; sale, Christie's, London, May 22, 1886, lot 83 (440 gns. to Agnew)

  • Christie’s, New York, December 4, 1996 Lot 68 realised $167,500

Graves states that the purchaser in 1872 was Addington. Agnew, the buyer in 1886, may have been Messrs Agnew who purchased the larger painting in the 1875 sale?


Engravings of the Paintings

John Landseer (Edwin’s Father) published an engraving of this subject dated June 3rd 1831. This engraving differs to the large painting we know and presume it must be based on the smaller version. Unfortunately it appears there is no image available of this smaller painting but we can compare to Christie’s noted differences.

Alpine Mastiffs by John Landseer

Credit: Two St. Bernard dogs with an avalanche victim, one tries to revive him while the other alerts the rescue party. Line engraving by J. Landseer, 1831, after E. Landseer. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

As expected there is no ‘St B’ on the blanket, there are differences to the tree limbs and there is a cork on the end of the barrel. Christie’s states “no bells or detailed collar that appear in the larger painting”. We feel this was a mistake on their part as in the engraving there are bells and detail but they are noticeably different to the larger painting, the two bells are opposite each other, top and bottom of the collar on the engraving (and presumably the smaller painting) as against both bells hanging under the collar in the larger painting. The detailing on the collar is also slightly different. Presuming that this is taken from the second smaller painting that Christie’s sold it is strange they didn’t also mention that the main figure to the mid foreground on the right is looking over his shoulder in the larger version but looking straight ahead in the engraving and hence presumably the smaller painting. Also what appears to be a wooden cross is in the rock above the dogs head.

To accompany the print John Landseer wrote a 47 page booklet describing the background to his son’s painting. You will note that the title page, illustrated, of the 1831 book confirms the painting is in the collection of Jesse Watts Russell which is somewhat strange as, as we have said, John Landseer’s engraving is of the smaller version. Surely Russell couldn’t have owned both copies in 1831? As Russell states he purchased directly from Edwin I feel that John felt he had to credit him even though his engraving wasn’t exactly the version that he had copied.

Interesting to note his print is titled “Alpine Mastiffs” and the accompanying book giving the fuller title “Alpine Mastiffs extricating an overwhelmed traveller from the snow”. Perhaps Edwin Landseer gave this second painting a slightly different title?

Title page to John Landseer's 1831 book to accompany his engraving 

Title page of John Landseer 1831 book

When reviewing John’s new engraving The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal Part III, published in 1831, states that they had seen a part finished impression by Edwin’s brother, Thomas Landseer about 3 years earlier and wondered whether this plate had been completed by and credited to the father, John or is there, in their opinion, a ‘superior plate’ by Thomas still in existence?

We then find another engraving of the same, smaller version of the painting which is now clearly marked “Engraved by Thos Landseer.” From looking at scans of the engravings they do appear to be from the same plate but you would need to study the actual prints to be certain. Perhaps Thomas ‘rescued’ what he considered to be his plate and then gave himself the full credit. This time the title appears as “Alpine Guardians. The Discovery and Rescue” and states after the painting by Sir Edwin Landseer therefore dating this engraving to after 1850 when Edwin was knighted. John died in Oct 1852 so possibly that is when Thomas might have ‘regained control’ of the plate. I have no reason to think there was any animosity between father and son but the situation over credit on his plate does seem strange. Thomas was a well regarded engraver in his own right and helped Edwin with his art lessons for Queen Victoria and Albert.

Algernon Graves notes, in his catalogue that William Greatbach published a version of the small painting in 1874. refers to the Greatbach engraving but gives a date of 1881. If the image from this respected research source is correct then Greatbach’s engraving is actually of the larger painting.

Graves also notes a lithograph by Fitzwygram. We can also find an engraving by Tucker “Alpine Mastiffs”, yet again based on the smaller painting used as an illustration to The Religious Souvenir edited by G T Bedell and published in Philadelphia in 1833. The book credits John Landseer’s print and quotes extensively from his booklet but the engraving is a lot smaller, the overall size of the book is 3 7/8” x 6 1/8”.

The Baxter Print

The 1860 Southgate and Barrett Sale Catalogue of Baxter plant and stock states it to be the "only facsimile which has ever been attempted, no opportunity ever having been afforded for the purpose of copying direct from the great original.  This privilege was granted to Mr. Baxter especially by the proprietor, who has expressed himself as delighted with the extreme faithfulness of the copy.  It has lately been published and received by the public with great enthusiasm." CL states in the Picture Printer that the painting “was lent by him (E Landseer) to Baxter so that he might make his drawings” but we can see from the ownership of the painting that it was owned by Jesse Watts Russell from at least 1831 until 1875.

Baxter’s early adverts confirm this stating the painting “formed the chief attraction of the Art-Treasures exhibition at Manchester.”  This was a major exhibition that took place in 1857, when Russell owned the painting, and remains the largest art exhibition to be held in the UK,

Advert Dogs of St Bernard by Baxter -  - Art Journal Advertiser February 1860

possibly in the world, with over 16,000 works… most of the works were borrowed from 700 private collections – The 1860 catalogue obviously now means Russell is the proprietor referred to.

Baxter's advertisement in the Art Journal Advertiser for February 1860

In his initial adverts Baxter called his print "The Dogs of St.  Bernard rescuing an overwhelmed traveller from the snow.” This seems to reference John Landseer’s 1831 book rather than Edwin Landseer’s actual title for the painting and also his own 1833 wood cut which please see below. Perhaps Baxter decided this title was too long as later advertisements seem to major on just the ‘Dogs of St Bernard’. His hard to find copies on stamped mounts show this shorter title followed by “after a painting by Sir Edwin Landseer RA”

CL states in the Picture Printer that “the print, notwithstanding, is not a perfectly faithful copy of the original.”  - this appears to be incorrect and the only assumption I can make is that CL most probably wouldn’t have had access to the original large painting and would have compared it to John Landseer’s or a similar engraving without realising that they was based, unknown to him, on the smaller painting.

CL also states “that the motive, possibly underlying the publication in 1859, was that it would be topical, as the Franco-Sardinian-Austrian War was then raging”. I can’t understand why CL thought this as, at the same time, he quoted from Baxter’s early adverts that the painting was” the chief attraction at the Art treasures exhibition in Manchester”, a widely publicised exhibition.

Although generally very well received not everyone was complimentary about Baxter’s new print, a review in the Art Journal for January 1860 states “The inferiority of oil printing to chromo lithography appears to lie in the absence of transparency and a consequently heaviness of colour” and goes on to say how poorly the image is constructed, which is strange as they then go onto say “painful as it is this reproduction will find many admirers, for, independent as its excellence as a copy….” So they appear to be saying that they didn’t like the layout of Landseer’s painting?

The Athenaeum for 3rd March 1860 confirmed that this is the first time it had been copied but the writer was obviously not a great fan of Baxter’s work in general, stating “the reproduction is totally devoid of that peculiar chalky purple tint which has hitherto disfigured so many of Mr Baxter’s publications.”

Size of Print - 44.3 cm x 60.5 cm

Stated by CL as being Published in 1860 most probably based on a number of adverts in 1859 and early 1860 (these being possible re-runs of early adverts) stating “soon to be published” but we have found one advert in ‘The Morning Chronicle’ dated 28th November 1859 stating “This day is published”, so actually published 1859.

Dogs St Bernard published 28th Nov 1859
Dogs St Bernard by George Baxter published 28th Nov 1859

The Morning Chronicle November 28th 1859 where Baxter advertises 'This day is published..."

Fig 1

Baxter’s versions are stated to be found in various states: