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ID number:  BIRBI-2019.1
Institution:  The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Artist / Maker:  Gott, Joseph (1785 – 1860)
Title / Object name:  Greyhound with Puppies
Object type:  Sculpture
Place made:  Europe: Italy, Rome
Culture:  British
Date made:  about 1825-27
Materials:  Carved white marble, on a variegated marble base
Measurements:  43 x 55 x 37.5cm (including plinth); height of plinth 5cm; circumference 155cm
Provenance:  Acquired at The Grosvenor House Art Fair from William Agnew, 1998 by William Gronow Davies, King John’s House, Tollard Royal, Wiltshire; Dukes Auctions Dorchester, 14 April 2016 (Lot 611), bt by Tomasso Brothers Fine Art, London and Leeds; From whom bought by HBT with grants from the Art Fund, the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and Tomasso Brothers Fine Art UK.
BIRBI-2019.1.jpg

Greyhound with Puppies shows Gott at his best: an artist able to reference antique precedents, accurately observe living breathing creatures and convey a warm sentiment - here, of protective maternal love and vulnerable infancy. Sculptures of dogs were a frequent motif in classical antiquity, particularly in late Imperial Rome, and Gott would have been familiar with the Sala degli Animali in the Museo Pio-Clementino (Vatican), with its Two Greyhounds Playing, excavated by Gavin Hamilton in 1773, and other examples regularly appeared, such as the Statue of a Greyhound acquired in Rome in 1829 for the Altes Museum Berlin. But Gott’s hounds are not pastiches: they seem endowed with what the contemporary painter Thomas Unwin called ‘individual character’, appealing ‘to the sympathies and associations common to humanity’. Gott was a skilled modeller in terracotta, able to capture realistic expression and gesture in his portraits, animal and human, and his smaller marbles (such as this) retain these qualities alongside extremely sensitive carving and finishing. Described during his lifetime as ‘the Landseer of marble’, this parallel suggests the very specific, historically located, infusion of sensibility in his animal sculpture.

The 6th Duke of Devonshire’s commission in 1823-4 of Greyhound with her Two Puppies Suckling (1825) is the first documented animal sculpture by Gott. This was destined for the Sculpture Gallery at Chatsworth, where it was placed alongside works from the antique and other commissions from contemporary sculptors including Canova. Gott produced further greyhounds with puppies, single dogs, and young children with their pets, although only one example of the grouping under consideration (with the two puppies neither suckling nor playing, but gently nosing their mother) is known. This marble may relate to two untraced plaster models, G91 and G92, in the catalogue raisonné of Gott’s work which accompanied the exhibition curated by Terry Friedman and Timothy Stevens in 1972. Gott’s practice was to produce an initial sketch in clay, then plaster models and casts, with a final marble generally only made to commission or for exhibition, given the expense of the material. Although a pointing machine would have been used to translate the form from plaster to marble, and roughing out undertaken by studio assistants, the fine carving and finishing would have been undertaken by Gott himself. Gott is able to convey the sense of smooth living flesh and even the suggestion of puppy fat in this hard material. The dating of circa 1825-27 is justified by the quality of this work, which is comparable to the Chatsworth commission as well as A Greyhound, a marble signed and dated 1827, Leeds Museums and Galleries.

Aside from the examples above, Gott’s animal work has been given little prominence in public museums (or indeed any other genres, apart from the Gott and Banks portrait series in Leeds). A dog sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, less fine than Greyhound with Puppies, is in storage. However, interest in human depiction of other animals is growing again, now from the perspective of contemporary debates about rights and identity. Another (less fine) version of the Chatsworth Greyhound with her Two Puppies Suckling, with the dealer Ralph Gierhards in 2017, was lent to Animals: Respect, Harmony, Subjugation, at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg in 2017/18.

Inscriptions / Translations:  on side of base: J. Gott F. T.

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