CL 335 - The Dogs of St. Bernard
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.
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: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_Landseer
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: https://beerconnoisseur.com/articles/myth-st-bernards-and-barrels
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: https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/sir-edwin-henry-landseer-ra-london-1802-1873-6117533-details.aspx
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.