It's a Dog's Life

“It’s a Dog’s Life” is an exploration of the relationship between humans and dogs as expressed through art. Genetic evidence suggests that the first domestication of dogs occurred between 11 and 16 thousand years ago. The domesticated dog arose alongside our hunter-gather ancestors and have been companions to humans ever since.  Throughout their history of domestication, dogs have fulfilled many roles for their human counterparts. The human-dog relationship was originally developed through the ability of humans to use dogs as an aid during hunts, a tradition that has carried on to contemporary times.  From this original purpose, humans have used dogs for various working purposed, yet arguably the most meaningful aspect of our relationship is the companionship that dogs provide for us.  This exhibition highlights the various representations of dogs as depicted through various time periods. In early portrayals dogs were represented as religious symbols, this was followed by the perception of the domesticated canine shifting towards that of a sign of status.  Later depictions of dogs simply showed their relations to the daily lives of humans. The themes explored in “It’s a Dog’s Life” demonstrate the intricate role that dogs have played to our lives and cultures throughout the centuries. 

Nehalennia was a goddess of fertility. Moreover, she was the patroness of hearth and home, of which the dog was a symbol. Probably these altars were swallowed up by the sea as early as the 3rd century A.D.
The Art Museum’s relief shows Mithras himself ritually slaying the bull. The conventional Mithraic symbols of a dog, a snake, and a scorpion assist in the act. The archeological contexts of similar sculptures demonstrate that this relief, which can be dated to the latter half of the second century A.D.
This burial piece depicts a tender moment between an owner and his dog. This is an early Asian example of the bond between humans and dogs. This burial piece indicates wealth and the importance of animals, even in the afterlife.
The dog used used as religious imagery alongside this portrayal of the popular medieval Saint Catherine of Alexandria.
This image displays the dedication of the dog to its working class owner. Although the date of this piece is unknown, it appears as though this is depicting a medieval European scene.
This is an early renaissance painting shows the goddess Venus trying to restrain her lover Adonis from going off to the hunt. This image harkens back to the early use of dogs as a hunting aid, as well as a religious symbol.
In the 17th century there was a distinct trend towards painting the wealthy with their canine companions. This painting may be interpreted as status symbol. The subject of this painting was wealthy enough to commission a portrait of her self, she also had the luxury of keeping a dog for companionship.
The young girl shown in this painting is noticeably upper class, yet the act of feeding the small dog some food has a universal quality to it. Here we can also note the distinct breeds forming.
This 18th century painting demonstrates the use of dogs as both a status symbol and a hunting companion.
This Tahitian painting from the late 19th century is an example of the universal relationship between dogs and humans. The dog in the foreground shows the easy incorporation of dogs into our daily lives.
This 20th century painting displays a dog and pup along side humans in their carriage. The sublet depiction of dogs show how integral they were to the daily lives of these upper class individuals.
This paint is an example of a modern breed of dogs and the practice of anthropomorphism of dogs. Our contemporary relationship with dogs has evolved to the point were we like to imagine them with human attributes and emotions.
Credits: All media
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