Oil on panel, 6½ x 8½ in. (16.5 x 21.6 cm.) , 1650
This cuddly sleeping dog is tiny. Well, the oil painting is at just 7×9″ (c. 21x16cm). Gerrit Dou was and is famous for his small and exquisite paintings. His work is breathtakingly detailed and refined. Brush marks are as good as invisible. He must have painted with the tiniest of brushes and taken a long time to perfect these little gems in oils. This little picture is one of my favourite dog paintings. I can’t tell what breed it is, but it is asleep in a warm kitchen setting. A terracotta pot with a broken lid, an old basket, a slipper and some kindle wood are joined together with the dog in a perfectly composed tonal harmony. The colours are warm; red ochres, browns and creams dominate the limited palette. The light is soft and gentle. The textures are just perfect. The realism has been cleverly adjusted by the artist to create a coherent whole. The dog’s fur is as fuzzy as the moss on the kindle wood, even the broken pot lid doesn’t look particularly sharp. Dou was a magician with paint. It has been applied with such finesse, such composed calmness and carefully placed marks. It is sophisticated to the highest degree and yet would surely melt any dog lover’s heart.