Canine Besties for All Creatures: Great and Small

When I want to write about Dogs in Art I first turn to my wonderful book by Susie Green to see what she has to say about the special bent I want to take.

Following on from the conversation with John the Macedonian Shepherd who wants his black Maremma in his painting, I sought information about dogs as significant companions to humans.

And Susie Green didn't let me down as she has a whole chapter dedicated to My Best Friend and I.

Child and Dog

Child with Dog by Alex Colville (

The delightful painting above features the artist Alex Colville's own daughter Ann who, as Susie Green explains he has painted her naked and defenceless next to their pet, a large dog with penetrating and watchful amber eyes.

Susie Green continues: This is a compositional combination which goes back to the Renaissance, when the children of royals might well be painted with hunting hounds ...and when mythological cherubs (and certainly Ann is cherubic in aspect) were frequently to be seen in the company of extrememly large dogs. (Dogs in Art, p. 157)

Green also points out that Victorian painters such as Sir Edwin Landseer always painted large dogs with tiny children as beings of protection and benevolence. We see this below in Landseer's painting of Princess Mary of Cambridge with Nelson, a Newfoundland Dog. The little Princess is holding a broken biscuit, the other half is balanced on Nelson's nose.

Landseer has imbued him with all the patience and forbearance which the canine race habitually display to small children. (Dogs in Art p.148)

Princess Mary of Cambridge

Princess Mary of Cambridge with Nelson, a Newfoundland Dog (

And so I return to learning about the Maremma that John the Macedonian Shepherd wants in his painting. I have only found a few art works dedicated to this breed. John's childhood dog was black but unfortunately I couldn't find a painting of a black Maremma. They are certainly magnificent creatures.

The only thing I know about the breed Maremma is that down on our coast at Warrnambool (Victoria), they are training Maremma dogs to protect our Little Penguins from foxes.

Maremmas are calm, good-natured, wilful or independent but above all they are fiercely loyal to their flock and wary of strangers. (

MaremmaMy name is Mezzo and this is me as a puppy. I might be cute now but I'm in training to protect penguins and soon I will weigh 40 kilos. To check out my story Click Here. (

I think this image says it all. A Little Penguin's best friend against the foxes is definitely a Maremma.

Maremma guarding the sheep


And as for looking after sheep, a Maremma is considered to be one of the best sheepdogs in the world.

Maremma guarding the sheep