Aristocrats had always kept hunting dogs but in the 19th century a new category of animal companion was created; the household pet. These non-working animals mirrored the situation of their boudoir-bound bourgeois owners; faithful, decorative and affectionate. This new way of perceiving animals had a parallel in the anti-vivisectionist movement.Impressionist canvases in particular show dogs, cats and parrots and their close ties with humans.
SYLVIA SAGONA is an internationally recognised specialist on 19th century French society. She retired from the French Department at The University of Melbourne to work on historical documentaries for French and Australian television and is currently researching a book on the invention of the restaurant in Paris in the 18th century.
Alfred-Émile-Léopold Stevens (Belgium, 1823–1906), Departing for the Promenade (Will You Go Out with Me, Fido?), 1859, Philadelphia Museum of Art, W1893-1-106, The W P Wilstach Collection, bequest of Anna H Wilstach, 1893