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Eos is a stunning portrait painting of Prince Albert's much loved greyhound. It is a fine example of Landseer’s ability to portray animals with care and accuracy.
It is the sheen of the dog’s coat that first attracts the eye. The precise use of light gives us the impression of being in the room with the dog ourselves. It is likely that this feature of the painting is what has made it amongst the most popular with followers of the artist, both during his own career and also in the present day. Animal paintings have always appealed to the public, but they are particularly sought after when the depiction itself is delivered in a technically impressive manner. Landseer was certainly capable of achieving this, as were the likes of Northern Renaissance painter, Albrecht Durer, as well as more modern artists such as the likes of Pablo Picasso.
Prince Albert's arrival in the U.K. was when he first took ownership of this stunning creature and they would go onto become close companions. He was in the country in order to marry Queen Victoria and this famous couple were to commission Landseer for a series of paintings across his career. The inclusion of many of the dog’s owner’s personal belongings within this composition have suggested to some that the dog actually represents the Prince within this artwork. He stands proudly, as if a gentleman from an expensive, educated background. The items include gloves, a hat and a cane. All are particularly grand items, in line with the status of their owner, who would likely have received some of them as gifts from other notable figures of the time.
The cane lies on a table that is covered in a beautifully, bright colour which provides a contrast to the animal. Greyhounds are slim, graceful creatures who are perhaps more suited to portraits than some other breeds of dog. Landseer, of course, made use of many different breeds in his work, but it is hard to imagine any more appropriate in representing the Prince than this creature. The floor is simply tiled and there are large paintings hanging in the background. Perhaps the dog is waiting to be taken out for a walk or run, and is awaiting the arrival of its owner, whose necessary items have already been prepared and left out for him by a servant.
Eos remains a proud part of the Royal Collection in the UK and is a good reminder of the historical links between this nation and Germany. Pets are highly significant parts of one’s life, making this far more than just a portrait of an animal. It feels regal in content, but also with other emotions alongside such as loyalty, strength and beauty. A curious Queen Victoria was well aware of the Prince's relationship with Eos prior to their relationship reaching the next level and would ask him about her through written correspondence. Prince Albert’s reply gives us further insight into the relationship of all three.
"...You ask after ...my faithful, but not disinterested Eos. She is very well, looks after herself as much as she can, sleeps by the stove, is very friendly if there is plum-cake in the room, very much put out when she has to jump over the stick, keen on hunting, sleepy after it, always proud and contemptuous of other dogs..."
Once both man and dog had settled, it was clear to Queen Victoria as the the love that her husband held for this greyhound. As such, she decided to commission Landseer to complete this portrait as a surprise gift to Albert. He was delighted with the painting and particularly appreciated the thoughtful nature of his wife. They were an inseparable couple, very much in love, but there was still room for Eos to retain sufficient attention and affection from his owner.
"...Amongst my presents to him was a large life size picture of Eos by Landseer, with which he was quite delighted, & it came as a complete surprise..."
Queen Victoria, 1841
One amusing aspect to this painting is that whilst constructing the piece without the knowledge of the Prince, artist Landseer took several of his possessions without the knowledge of his staff. They frantically attempted to locate them when Albert seemed to go for a stroll and could not locate these items himself, just as suggested by the final painting where his walking stick were placed alongside a patient dog. Eos sadly passed away in 1844, four years after her arrival in the UK.