Dutch Mastiff (called 'Old Vertue') with Dunham Massey in the background
Jan Wyck (Haarlem 1645 – Mortlake 1700)
This unusual and dramatic portrait of a favourite faithful dog named Pugg or Old Vertue was painted by the Dutch artist Jan Wyck (c.1645– 1700) and commissioned by a member of the Booth family at Dunham Massey, Cheshire, around 1700. The dog was a type of bulldog or Dutch mastiff, a breed that was cultivated on the estate for several decades. Previous family owners of Dutch mastiffs had described them as ‘Dum, sensible and sincere creatures’, and they were employed as lapdogs and probably also to control vermin and sheep. In this portrait, Pugg’s brindle coat is well lit, and he stands theatrically positioned against the skyline with the house in the distance, looking alertly to the left. He can also be seen in the background, busily chasing sheep in an open landscape. The Booth family clearly cherished their pet dogs, as several other portraits (such as Turpin, a speckled Great Dane) still survive at Dunham Massey. Pugg died in 1702 and has a tombstone in the grounds of the house, beginning a tradition of pet burials that continued into the 19th century.
Oil painting on canvas, Dutch Mastiff (called 'Old Vertue') with Dunham Massey in the background, by Jan Wyck (Haarlem 1652 – Mortlake 1700), 1700. A painting of a muscular pug with brindle coat, seated on a mound in the immediate foreground, with the south-eastern side of Dunham Massey Hall in the background at left and the Park in the middle distance. The pug dominates the composition and is turned slightly to proper right. A swallow dives in flight near the pug, at top left. In the middle distance deer are visible in the parkland at left and at right, a shepherd and his dog herding a flock of sheep. Pugs, also historically known as Dutch Mastiffs, were brought from the Chinese imperial court to Europe in the sixteen century. They were a favourite breed of the House of Orange and gained popularity in England during the coregency of William III and Mary II. The pug in this picture, known as Pugg or Old Vertue, was the beloved pet of George Booth, 2nd Earl of Warrington (1675 – 1758). Booth remodelled Dunham Massey from the seventeenth-century edifice depicted in this view to the Georgian mansion we see today.
The attribution of this picture has hovered between Wyck and Leendert Knyff (Haarlem 1650-London 1722) ever since the picture became the object of scholarly attention, with the revelation of the treasures of Dunham Massey after it had passed to the National Trust under the will of the 10th and last Earl of Stamford, in 1976. Understandably, since the picture - combining, as it does, a portrait of a dog with a view of the house - is almost sui generis, and because both artists are credited by George Vertue with making portraits of dogs for the gentry - although all too few examples by either artist survive - or, at least, have been identified as their work. Of Jan Wyck, son of the italianate harbour-scene and alchemist's laboratory- painter, Thomas 'Old' Wyck (Beverwijk c.1616-Haarlem 1677), Vertue says, inter alia: "His Hunting Pieces are also in grate Esteem among our Country-Gentry, for whom he often drew Horses & Dogs by the Life, in which he imitated the manner of Woverman." At least two signed examples of what Vertue is referring to are known: the Huntsman with a dead hare and a pack of hounds above Berkhamsted sold at Sotheby's, 12 March 1986, lot 111; and the Portrait of a Löwchen in the grounds of a country house, sold at Christie's, 17 July 1987, lot 26A. Yet of Leendert, or Leonard, Knyff, who, with his elder brother Jacob Knyff (Haarlem 1640-London 1681), is best known as a painter of bird's-eye views of houses, many of the former's later engraved by his fellow-countryman Johannes Kip, Vertue begins by saying: "Leonard Knyffe, a dutch painter - chiefly fowls, dogs, &c. ...." There is and was, indeed, a whole group of (not very similar to this) portraits of, or including, dogs, painted in 1699 and 1700, in the collection of the Earls of Halifax at Temple Newsam ; a signed example - quite close, in many respects, to the present picture - was acquired by Paul Mellon in 1969, and is now in the Yale Center for British Art ; whilst Vertue also records: "at Mr. Southbey's [=William Sotheby, of Sewardstone] some dogs painted by him [Knyff] freely enough" , of whose subsequent fate nothing seems to be known. Despite the affinities of the present picture in some respects with the one at Yale, an attribution to Wyck rather than to Knyff seems preferable for it - above all because of the refinement of its handling, and the painterly quality of the background scene - of the hero of the picture chasing sheep! It is to Wyck that the picture has been ascribed since it was first recorded in 1769, in an inventory that is generally reliable in its ascriptions - and indeed, that has revealed the identity of a later artist, not previously known to have painted dogs: Thomas Stringer (Knutsford 1722-1790), who is credited with the two large surviving: "Pictures of a beautiful Danish Dog called Turpin" - a harlequin Great Dane. The dog in the present picture is of a less clearly defined breed; "a brindled mastiff of bulldog type" would probably be the best description of it ; whilst the nomenclature of dogs was also far from exact around 1700. Nonetheless, it does seem possible tentatively to relate this picture to a particular breed that was cultivated at Dunham Massey, a house where the cult of the dog was unusually strong. In general, country gentlemen and the nobility had their horses painted, but not their dogs. Fond though they might be of the latter, these did not represent the same kind of financial investment as horses, so that the recording of them and their blood-lines was less important; nor were they the occasion for the same kind of social gathering as horses, in the form of hunts and races, which also diminished the demand for images of them. At Dunham, however, there is a whole variety of portrayals of dogs, beginning with this one of around 1700, onwards; and also a whole set of tombstones to them, the earliest - at least to survive - of which, dated 1702, is to "Pugg, alias Old Vertue". "Pugg" was clearly the dog's name, rather than an indication of its breed - for the word was only then in the process of conversion from an affectionate insult (meaning imp or dwarf) into the designation of a particular kind of dwarf breed of dog . That dogs such as this were bred at Dunham is suggested by the fact that in 1690 or 1691 Katherine Booth (1672-1765), great-granddaughter of Sir George Booth, 1st Bt, and who as a little girl had danced with the Duke of Monmouth, when he was entertained by Sir George Booth, 1st Baron Delamer, at Dunham Massey in 1683, wrote to her mother from London: "My cousin Booth [= Vere B.? or his elder bro'] yesterday gave me a little Dutch Masty .... the prettiest chubbiest face that ever you saw, he is now on my lap ...." . Sadly, this particular specimen, in her absence, ran out into the streets and disappeared, only a year or so later. Katherine Howard (as her owner had become), however, remained devoted to dogs to the end of her days, adding successive codicils to her will about them. The first went: "I cannot satisfie myself without taking care of my sensible loveing Dutch Mastive Poppet if I die before her, so I write this; to charge my Estate real & personal, with twelve pence a week to maintain her in meat as long as she lives, that is, the person who takes care of her is to have it for that purpose & to have the little table with a drawer to put her meat or combs or Trencher in, (which I call hers) and she shall have her mug for water and a bottle allways full in the room she lies in; & shall lie on the Bed or go into it if she pleases, & the first thing carried out to some safe place in a morning to doe her occasions. Then at Breakfast a little Bread crumbled on her Trencher or Plate & a Tea of Coffee Cup of Milk put toe it & stired together, any Butchers meat cut on her Trencher at noon & a bone to please her all times & to be carried out again after Dinner as before: the same at night before she goes to Bed, & not suffered to run out in Street or lane alone; & to stay in my House at Boughton as long as possible after my Death". But in 1756 she had to add another: "Since Poppet is dead all is at an end with what I have writ above & in this Paper but my concern now is for Prity Prince & Bender, Dum sensible sincere creatures" . It is pleasant to think that these "Dum, sensible sincere creatures" may have been the descendants of the dog shown here. Notes: (i) Vertue Notebooks: vol.II, Walpole Society, vol.XX, 1931-32 , p.141). (ii) cf. Hugh Honour, 'Leonard Knyff', Burlington Magazine, vol.XCVI, November 1954, pp.335-38; Ellis Waterhouse, The Dictionary of 16th and 16th Century British Painters, 1988, pp.159-60, wi. figs.). (iii) cf. Selected Paintings, Drawings, & Books, 1977, p.7; A Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, 1985, p.136 & fig. p.137. (iv) Notebooks, vol.V/XVI, 1937-38 , p.14. (v) I am grateful to David Hancock, Director of Shugborough, and author of The Heritage of the Dog, for this information. (vi) Alastair D. Laing, 'Sensible, sincere creatures', Country Life, 8 February 1990, pp.62-65 & cover, esp. pp.63-64 & fig.1. (vii) Significantly, the first dog of Hogarth's whose name we know, from an advertisement of its loss in 1730, was: "A light-colour'd Dutch dog, with a black Muzzle, and answers to the Name of Pugg" (Ronald Paulson, Hogarth, vol.I: The Modern 'Moral Subject', 1697-1732, New Brunswick & London, 1991, pp.203 & 222-24). This coincides with the first appearance - almost as a signature - of the first true pugs in his pictures. Yet the Chelsea porcelain pug believed to be his later dog Trump, modelled by Roubiliac, has more of the mastiff-like characteristics of the dog shown here. (viii) Mary Arnold-Foster, Basset Down, 1950, p.115. (ix) A transcription of Katherine Howard's will is amongst a volume of transcripts from a collection known as 'The Bradstreet Manuscripts' (present whereabouts unknown) in the possession of Mr and Mrs Arnold-Foster, to whom I am most grateful for permission to quote from it. (adapted from author's version/pre-publication, Alastair Laing, In Trust for the Nation, exh. cat., 1995)
Recorded in the first MS 'Catalogue of Pictures &c at Dunham, 1769' ( taken a year after the death of the 4th Earl of Stamford, husband of the heiress of Dunham Massey, Lady Mary Booth), p. 19 (as 'a Dutch Mastiff...Wyke', in the Yellow Bedchamber); 1769 inventory, p. 20 (ibid., as the same; 1787 inventory, p. 29 (in the Stairfoot-Room, as the same); 1811 inventory, p. 26 (ibid., as the same) by descent, bequeathed to the National Trust with the house, estate and all the contents of Dunham Massey by Roger Grey,10th Earl of Stamford (1896 - 1976)
Dunham Massey, The Stamford Collection (National Trust)
Makers and roles
Jan Wyck (Haarlem 1645 – Mortlake 1700), artist previously catalogued as attributed to Leendert Knijff (Haarlem 1650 – London 1721), artist
In Trust for the Nation, National Gallery, London, 1995 - 1996, no.16
Laing 1990 Alastair Laing, 'Sensible, Sincere Creatures', Country LIfe, 8 February 1990, pp.62-5, fig. 1.