A Terrific Pair of Late 19thC English School Oils on Canvas of St. Bernard Dogs


Origin: English
Period: Late Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1870-90
Canvas Heights: 16 inches & 15.5 inches
Canvas Widths: 15.5 inches & 11 inches
The Wholes: 20.5 x 18.5 inches / 19.5 x 15.5 inches

Painted in oils on canvas and presented in their original gilt composition frames the apparently unsigned pair of English school studies of young St. Bernard dogs on sky blue grounds, one facing right the other left, survive from the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

Condition is unrestored and uncleaned and thus they are in original but rather shoddy order. One oil has a scratch through the center of the canvas, with one of the frames in better fettle than the other. They could of course be realigned, cleaned and restored if so desired. We like to leave this decision up to the buyer. Interestingly we have found a recent copy of one the pictures online signed CYA painted in the last few years.

To the reverse we find some interesting stamps to help date the pictures including “Barnby Bendall and Co Ltd Depository Cheltenham..Miss Mortimer 407”. Barnby Bendall and Co Ltd were furniture removers & Storage facilitators from 1839-1976. Thus we can deduce the former owner Miss Mortimer (no 407) used this depository when perhaps moving home in the Cheltenham area before 1976. Other paintings and pieces of furniture exist with this label that have been sold at auction such as chairs desks and paintings such as a Portrait of Elizabeth Wilmot, Countess of Rochester c. 1670.

There are also “G Rowney and Co 64 Oxford Street London” stamps. G Rowney operated at 64 Oxford St between 1881-1907 and is one of very few artists’ supply businesses in the world with its origins in the 18th century still trading today, with Winsor & Newton its closest rival.

On one of the pictures we see a further stamp for “Princes Hall Piccadilly. W1”. Numbers 190–195 Piccadilly were rebuilt between 1881 and 1883 for the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. The annual exhibitions were held at No. 16 Old Bond Street until 1834, at Exeter Hall until 1837, and from then, until the erection of the Piccadilly premises, at No. 53 Pall Mall. The new galleries had a public hall beneath with six shops on the ground floor of the Piccadilly front. Behind these was the Prince's Hall, a large room which was intended for public functions. In about 1900 the Prince's Hall appears to have been joined to the Prince's Hotel built in 1898. All of these stamps point to a key period of framing and then gallery display between 1881 – 1890.

The St. Bernard Dog is a giant and ancient breed of dog thought to be bred by the monks of the hospice built at Great St. Bernard Pass by St Bernard de Menthon in 1049 as a refuge for travelers and pilgrims. The St. Bernard has been depicted in paintings and drawings dating back to 1695 and the existence of the breed is also documented in written official documents of the Hospice since 1707. The breed gained popularity as a rescue dog by the middle of the 17th century when a St. Bernard, name Barry, allegedly rescued dozens of people from an avalanche. The name "St. Bernard" became official only by the middle of the 19th century, until then the breed were called "Saint Dogs" or "Alpenmastiff".

Though presented in tired condition these pictures are painted by a dexterous hand and are desirable as a pair, having been framed and displayed in prominent places, today remaining charming and evocative… saintly even.