LOWCHEN: A Renaissance Favourite

The Duchesse of Alba,
Francisco de Goya, 1795

For Lowchen connoisseurs, visits to art galleries aren’t complete without viewing Renaissance masterpieces; you’ll find us searching for “le petit chien lion.” Seldom do we leave major world galleries disappointed, as this breed was a true favourite of Durer and Goya, plus many other master artists of the Renaissance. Without documentation by such artists, our knowledge of Lowchen and their role as elegant court companions would have remained sketchy.

Understandably, breed fanciers must study art, as well as written records, in the pursuit of Lowchen breed history; as we peel back layers of mystery and intrigue, romantic folklore is revealed. One such story maintains that in earlier times, warriors killed in war had tombs guarded by stone lions, while those felled during peacetime featured stone Lowchen.

How did Lowchen work their way into powerful circles, including that of the Medici family? Well, much like the appalling “pet as accessory” we see today, elegant, portable, amusing Lowchen filled that role for the cosseted set. Quickly, these wee charmers won hearts and commenced sharing sleeping accommodations with their mistresses, while their shaved lion loins provided warmth for feet in chilly castles.

Some art historians believe Durer, an artist who enjoyed the respect and camaraderie of those in the highest circles, managed to own several Lowchen, as they are often depicted in his work; The Visitation, The Flagellation, and Knight with Foot Soldier are but a few of his masterpieces which include wee lions; it appears that Lowchen were both his companions, as well as life models.

For some Lowchen admirers, Goya’s “The Duchess of Alba” is the favourite; in English portraiture style, an absurdly tiny Lowchen and lady are presented in a landscape setting, sporting similar wavy hairstyles and red ribbons. It seems appropriate that a Lowchen, a member of the Bichon family, is presented in such fashion, as Bichon comes from the word Bichonner,” to pamper, or doll up”.

Perhaps, one day you’ll join in this game of “spot the Lowchen”, as Renaissance art assists in revealing the role of this charming breed, centuries ago.

© The Pringle Pride  2011