Dogs are everywhere in Dutch museums. As I wandered through the art galleries of Amsterdam, I wondered why dogs appear in so many paintings, especially those dating from the Golden Age. All though the 1600s, the Dutch Republic was pretty much on top of the world. Merchants and seamen traded all over the world, bringing in boatloads of money. A wealthy middle class rose up. There was still a market for religious and historical art, but above all this new wealthy class wanted portraits and depictions of their everyday lives of luxury. Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals and many other artists were happy to oblige. My guess is that man’s best friend was just part of the good life.
I came across a wonderful poem by David Graham:
The Dogs in Dutch Paintings
How shall I not love them, snoozing
right through the Annunciation? They inhabit
the outskirts of every importance, sprawl
dead center in each oblivious household.
They’re digging at fleas or snapping at scraps,
dozing with noble abandon while a boy
bells their tails. Often they present their rumps
in the foreground of some martyrdom.
What Christ could lean so unconcernedly
against a table leg, the feast above continuing?
Could the Virgin in her joy match this grace
as a hound sagely ponders an upturned turtle?
No scholar at his huge book will capture
my eye so well as the skinny haunches,
the frazzled tails and serene optimism
of the least of these mutts, curled
in the corners of the world’s dazzlement.
The poet’s website is at davidgraham.lifeyo.com.
I’m counting my discovery of this poet as one of the world’s dazzlements!