Dorothy’s Dog

The little known English portrait painteJohn_Bettes_the_Younger_-_The_Duchess_of_Chandos_-_Google_Art_Project 1579r, John Bettes the Younger, (d.1616) is believed to have depicted Dorothy Bray, Baroness Chandos, in this portrait from 1579, incorrectly titled The Duchess of Chandos.

Dorothy is seated with her hands clasped together, gazing into the viewer’s space. Her familial coat of arms sits to the right of her, clearly declaring her to be a member of the elite of England at this time.

She wears the fashionable clothes of the 1570s – a large, extended ruff, and full, padded sleeves which emphasise her small waist and hint at her (perhaps lost) fertility by making her hips appear larger and ready therefore, suitable for childbearing.

The depiction of dogs in Medieval and Early Modern art often serve as visual metaphors of fidelity – either in marriage, family or to the monarch – and it seems that here, the small lap dog appears to direct its gaze to the cameo brooch in the centre of Dorothy’s bodice, a depiction of an emperor in profile, leafy crown atop his head. This could allude to Dorothy’s faithfulness and even adoration of the ruler at the time, Elizabeth I.

 


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