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Canceled—In Depth: “Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler” by Sir Edwin Landseer

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2020
  • 2:00 p.m. – 2:50 p.m.
  • West Building, Main Floor - Rotunda
Two large dogs approach a man lying unconscious and mostly buried in the snow in this horizontal painting. The head of the man lies towards us, at the lower center of the composition, and the dogs seem close to us. In the center of the painting is a large tan and white dog with short glossy fur and floppy ears, its jowly mouth hanging open and pink tongue visible. It paws at the snow partially covering most of the body of a man wearing an olive-green coat with a fur collar and white shirt, directly beneath the dog. The dog looks up toward our right, and its body and white tipped tail recede diagonally into the picture toward the left. There is a red blanket with black edging thrown over the dog’s back and the hound wears a wide, fur-lined silver collar ornamented with metalwork lions and bells. The second dog, a dark brown brindle color, sits to the immediate left of the first dog. It gazes downward toward the center at the prone person and bends its head down to lick a bare pale, pink hand that protrudes from underneath the snow. The brindle dog wears a small barrel around its neck on a brown buckled leather collar. The man’s dark brown hair falls over the snow. His pale grey face is upward, and his shoulders are visible while his arms splay out, and the rest of his body, extending into the picture, is snow covered. The man’s eyes are closed. His right hand (on our right also), with a tan leather glove, reaches out toward us from the snow, while a green velvet cap with a red ribbon lies underneath the hand. The scene is enclosed by large, angular steel and blue-grey boulders and rock formations, with two craggy pine trees above. Beyond lies a mountain landscape with a V-shaped pass at the center top framed by the steep ascent of jagged, snowy hillsides and a sliver of blue sky at the very top. At the right in the middle distance, three bearded men wearing black caps and what appear to be clerical robes hurry toward the dogs. The nearest of the clerics holds up a staff with a cross on the top and facing toward the left side of the painting, waves or signals to someone beyond view.

Sir Edwin Landseer, Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler, 1820, oil on canvas, Patrons' Permanent Fund, 2019.120.1

Sir Edwin Landseer was a renowned 19th-century British painter of animals—in particular, horses, dogs, and stags. The Gallery has acquired Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler, Landseer's first masterpiece and the work that helped establish his reputation. David Gariff discusses this important new acquisition.

David Gariff, lecturer