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'Portrait of a Large Dog' (Dingo) (Painting)

Fine art

Object connections:

Collection Fine art, Oil paintings
User collections Captain Cook's First Voyage by NMMCollections
Gallery locationPacific Encounters Gallery (Floor plans)
EventsExploration: Cook's First Voyage, 1768

Object details:

Object ID ZBA5755
Description A dark-coloured dog, with a fox-like tale shown in left profile on a low hillside against a dramatically cloudy sky background. 'Dingo' and ‘Kangaroo’ (ZBA5754) were commissioned as a pair by Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820) following his participation in Captain James Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific (1768–71), which was also the first British voyage devoted exclusively to scientific discovery. Banks is a major figure in the development of European natural history and was an important patron of science and the arts. Both paintings were executed by George Stubbs (1724–1806), the foremost animal painter in Britain during the 18th century, within two years of Banks’s return. He was obliged to use slight sketches made by Sydney Parkinson during the voyage, and kangaroo skulls and a pelt - probably of a wallaby - that returned with it (the latter inflated or stuffed for the purpose) and they are the only exotic animals he painted which were not done from live specimens. They are the most significant artistic productions directly related to Cook's first voyage, and the earliest painted representations of these iconic animals in Western art. The paintings were exhibited as a pair in London in 1773, were subsequently visible for study by scholars with the rest of Banks's collection in his house at 32 Soho Square, and have remained together in the UK ever since. They were acquired by the Museum in November 2012, following a fundraising campaign. 'Kangaroo' alone was engraved (in reverse) and published in John Hawkesworth's account of early British Pacific voyages (1773), including Cook's first: for the print see PAJ3959. This made it widely known from then on, while 'Dingo' has always been far less so and is not such a good representation, probably solely because of the limitations of the source drawings available. Dingos are much lighter and more yellow in colour, as well as longer-legged and deeper chested (as fast and enduring running hunters). Their heads are also squarer and with more forward-pointing ears mounted rather higher on the skull, while their tails are more like that of a wolf than a fox - which was probably the animal Stubbs had more closely in mind as a parallel when painting this image. [PvdM amended 11/17]
Date made 1772

Artist/Maker Stubbs, George
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Acquired with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund; The Eyal and Marilyn Ofer Foundation (formerly known as the Eyal Ofer Family Foundation); The Monument Trust; Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation); The Crosthwaite Bequest; The Sackler Trust; Sir Harry Djanogly CBE; The Hartnett Conservation Trust; Sheila Richardson and Anthony Nixon; The Leathersellers' Company; Gapper Charitable Trust; Genevieve Muinzer and others
Materials Beeswax on mahogany panel
Measurements Painting: 610 mm x 711 mm x 8 mm, Frame: 782 x 880 x 76 mm, Weight: 13.5kg
  • 'Portrait of a Large Dog' (Dingo) (Painting) (ZBA5755)
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