Historical Portraits of People and Their Pets

Selfies with pets may be fairly new, but people have considered pets as part of the family for a long, long time. Before photography, those who could afford portraits to be painted often included their beloved pet, so we have documented evidence of their existence hundreds of years later. And often, the stories behind them, too, like the caption for the picture above.

I adore this cat’s disgruntled expression. It even looks a bit like its owner, Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. Keith Thomas says that this 1603 portrait, which commemorates the Earl’s stay in the Tower of London after Essex’s failed rebellion, depicts ‘an extremely sleek and alert cat [which was] his companion in imprisonment’ (p. 109).

See a collection of portraits painted from the 16th to the 20th centuries that includes the subject's pet at Dance's Historical Miscellany. -via Nag on the Lake  


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