Laying Down the Law Edwin Henry Landseer Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Laying Down the Law is the most popular dog painting of the 19th century. Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1840 Landseer incorporates individual characters of different breeds as a symbol of the members of the legal profession.

It is an oil on canvas painting that depicts dogs undertaking the roles of court members. Landseer highlights the centre stage French poodle as the judge.

Related Works

Deer and Deer Hounds in a Mountain Torrent, 1832, was the first of the many artworks of the red deer in the Scottish Highlands created by Landseer. A stag is seen tormented by two deerhounds in a fast-flowing stream among rocks. One dog is wounded by its antlers, while the other fastens onto its ear trying to keep it pinned down.

The snag works to keep up with the exhaustion by holding onto the rocks but is slowly dragged to the edge. It gives an upward gaze, an expression of agony. In this mountain landscape covered by dark rainclouds, there is no hope of sympathy. Even in the final torment, the snag is portrayed as defiant before its fatal shot. Landseer was inspired by British hunting in the 18th century and the conviction that nature is cruel.

Victoria, Princess Royal, with Eos, 1841 portrays baby Victoria with Eos, Prince Albert’s favourite dog. This was painted during Albert’s birthday, commissioned as a gift to Albert by Queen Victoria. Landseer worked for the queen and the royal patronage for long and had a better understanding of the surroundings and what she loved the most. Eos was brought to England by the Prince when he married Victoria in 1840. The greyhound is seen curled up with eight months old baby Victoria, who is seen wearing a white dress spotted with pink satin ribbon. The pendant on her neck has pearls attached to it, a symbol of royalty.

Windsor Castle in Modern Times is perhaps the most relatable piece of art to the modern eye, created by Landseer in 1845. It is an oil on canvas painting that depicts the enduring relationship of the royal family and their dogs. This was a painting termed by Queen Victoria as beautiful, cheerful and pleasing. The artwork portrays Victoria and Albert in the castle inside a drawing-room, soon after Albert returned from hunting.

Queen Victoria is seen handing him a bouquet, while princess Victoria, their daughter plays with a dead kingfisher. Prince Albert is depicted as a masculine figure who provides for his family, while the queen is brought out with the epitome of feminine virtues, to mean she is caring and loving. However, the gesture of her standing in front of the prince is also to mean that she is still the ruling monarch. The dogs in the painting add an extra touch of class.