We were unable to find other such early examples of Medieval hunters and their pets having reached the market
Medieval canine companionship: remarkably early inhabited initial of a dog; from 12th Century France Ex-Parke Bernet, 1948
Mankind has long been infatuated with dogs. The canine/human relationship goes back tens of thousands of years, and a painting of a dog as cave art from 9,000 years ago has survived. But it...
Medieval canine companionship: remarkably early inhabited initial of a dog; from 12th Century France
Ex-Parke Bernet, 1948
Mankind has long been infatuated with dogs. The canine/human relationship goes back tens of thousands of years, and a painting of a dog as cave art from 9,000 years ago has survived. But it was only in the Middle Ages that images of dogs, especially those in context, begin to appear with any regularity.
Dogs’ roles in the lives of humans from the Middle Ages would be familiar to us in the modern day. Besides being lap dogs or companions, dogs also helped in the hunt.
Throughout the Middle Ages, important thinkers turn their thoughts towards animals, both allegorical and figural. As early as Pliny the Elder, who wrote Natural History around 70 AD, the loyalty of our canine companions has been noted, with anecdotes of dogs staying by their owner’s sides even after death. This theme is carried through the Middle Ages and the 14th century, and the “author of the Goodman of Paris also claims to have even seen with his own eyes a case of canine loyalty unto death” (Medieval Pets 9). In the 6th century, Saint Gregory the Great wrote in his Homilies on the Evangelists, comparing preachers with dogs in that the tongues of both have the power to cure. Though Isidore of Seville’s encyclopaedic text, Etamologiae, was written in the 7th century, it stands as a standard text for medieval scholarship and understanding of the natural world. Isidore’s entry for dogs underscores two qualities: bravery and speed. Chaucer includes a charming description of the Prioress, that “of small hounds she had and fed with with roasted flesh or milk or wasted-bread. But sorely she would weep if one of them were dead, or if someone hit it smartly with a stick.”
The difference between working dogs and pet dogs, primarily, was size, with lap-dogs being thought to be close to the modern Bichon, spaniels, and “small scent hounds,” such as greyhounds (Pets, 5). Though John Caius’ On Canibus Britannicis (On British Dogs) appears later than our present dog, it remains an important resource for understanding pre-Modern dogs. He lists out hunting dog breeds as “the Harier, the Terrar, the Bloudhounde, the Gasehounde, the Grehounde, the Leuiner or Lyemmer, [and] the Tumbler.” The accoutrement accompanying pet and working dogs differed. The collars of lap dogs, for example, were ornamented with precious metals and bells (Medieval Pets, 51-2).
Hunting dogs and lap dogs would also receive different meals, with lap dogs begetting from the luxury of milk—
“The accounts of Eleanor de Montfort (1258–82) in 1265 include entries for her chamberlain purchasing milk for her pet dogs that lived in her chamber. The household’s hunting dogs that were kennelled outside would not have received milk, although all the dogs ate bread.”(Medieval Pets, 42)
Gift-giving in court was common and occasionally included the gift of a hound. These hounds were frequently gifted with the intention of being hunting dogs. These dogs may have occasionally been invited in to the lap and turned into pets by their new owners (Medieval Pets, 24). We have a terrific amount of information regarding the naming of dogs in the Middle Ages. Some dogs were named after their breed, some after famous knights and other figures of literature. According to the records of the shooting-festival in Zurich in 1504, the most popular dog name was Fürst, which translates to Prince.
King Charles IX of France’s La chase royale, writing in the 16th century but illuminating earlier hunting techniques, there were “three basic strains” of dog: black, white, and grey (The Hound and the Hawk, 16).
The white, Charles IX tells us, originated at St. Hubert; and the grey has the benefit of being immune to rabies, but was thought to be less sensitive to scent. Charles’ anecdote on the grey dog’s origins date to King Louis’ conquering of the Holy Land, where he came across a breed of dog in Tartary and brought them back to France (The Hound and the Hawk, 16).
In medieval French, the term chien baut (beautiful dog) specifically refers to a hound possessing all the best characteristics: “beauty, assiduity, strength, obedience, refusal to change to a different scent, and the ability to give the tongue informatively rather than early excitedly. The cries of the ideal hound should be steady and regular when following a clear scent, should cease when it was trying to overcome a problem… The chien baut must not give up on its beast, not for rain not wind nor heat nor any other weather” (19). In addition to hunting manuals, chiens baut have even been immortalised in literature, such as De Brézé’s poem Les Dits du bon chien Souillard (The Songs of the good dog, Souillard) (The Hound and the Hawk, 19) and Thomas Malory’s Arthurian works (The Hound and the Hawk, 20).
Modern English surnames, such as Hunter and Parker, reflect historic professions, as do less obvious French surnames such as Parquier (Parker), “Huelievre” (Halloo-the-hare), le Mastinier (the Mastiff man) (The Hound and the Hawk, 173). To become a hunter there was rigorous hierarchy of positions to master before moving on to the next stage of the profession.
A 12th century, French medieval illustration, a commoner hunter, accompanied by a grey and a white dog, both with chain leashes and collars used for hunting hounds, a vibrant depiction of two dogs following their master, all successful in their recent hunt of a hare. Our huntsman is dressed in an uncommon, but not unheard of, red. We see red garments represented in other manuscripts, as well as green and grey. A narrow-sleeved tunic above the knee and boots were one of the standards (The Hound and the Hawk, 178). Our hunter is likely a commoner rather than a member of the hunting nobility based on his quarry. The rabbits, known as hares or conies, held aloft, were hunted for fur not sport. In fact, in the Queen Mary Psalter (London, British Library, Royal MS 2 B VII), peasant women are shown hunting rabbits (Medieval Hunting, 49). This inclusion of a commoner hunting, rather than a member of the nobility, gives us an uncommon glimpse into everyday life.
Because this image was separated from its corresponding text a century or more ago, it is no longer possible to know the precise context.
[France, twelfth century], 10 by 75mm. A hunter cut from an unknown initial, in red robes, leading two dogs by chains and with his bow slung over his shoulder from which hangs a dead hare suspended by its feet. The palette, notably the use of vibrant reds alongside dark muted greens finds parallels throughout central and south-western France (see for example W. Cahn, Romanesque Manuscripts, 1996, no. 31 and 26, from south-western France and Tours, respectively).
From the collection of Vladimir Gregorievitch Simkovitch (1874-1959), Russian émigré to Germany then America, professor of Economic History at Columbia University, New York. Public records show this piece having reached the market in the first half of the 20th century at what was then the prominent firm of Parke Bernet.
Almond, Richard, Medieval Hunting, The History Press, 2011.
Kathleen Walker-Meikle, Medieval Pets, Boydell Press, 2012
Cummins, John. The Hound and the Hawk: The Art of Medieval Hunting. St. Martin’s Press, 1988.
W. Cahn, Romanesque Manuscripts, 1996, no. 31 and 26
Frame, Display, Preserve
Each frame is custom constructed, using only proper museum archival materials. This includes:The finest frames, tailored to match the document you have chosen. These can period style, antiqued, gilded, wood, etc. Fabric mats, including silk and satin, as well as museum mat board with hand painted bevels. Attachment of the document to the matting to ensure its protection. This "hinging" is done according to archival standards. Protective "glass," or Tru Vue Optium Acrylic glazing, which is shatter resistant, 99% UV protective, and anti-reflective. You benefit from our decades of experience in designing and creating beautiful, compelling, and protective framed historical documents.Learn more about our Framing Services