The first images of dogs were painted on cave walls. These dogs served as protectors and hunters. As man developed, so did his relationship with dogs. While dogs continued to be used as protectors and hunters, they soon warmed their way into people’s homes and hearts.
By the time of the Renaissance (1300-1600), different breeds of dogs developed and many small breeds turned into lap dogs or companion dogs for the wealthy. You can find lavish paintings depicting these breeds often seated on a velvet cushion or on the lap of their owner. These little dogs became status symbols. Fast forward to the 1800’s and with the start of the American and British Kennel Clubs, standards for dogs were established which led to the commission of more dog portraits in art.
If you research, you will see that all cultures depicted our four-legged friends in different forms of art, from paintings to sculpture, but no one has made them as lavish in appearance as the artists of the Renaissance. From the velvet and baroque cushions to the gilded frames, Renaissance Dogs were portrayed in a luxurious style.
Dogs of the Renaissance Project
In this lesson, you can research images of dogs and determine how you would portray your own furry pet, a friend’s pet, or a dog breed you like in its own lavish style. Is your dog’s style more like Scooby Doo or Pongo? Movies about dogs are ubiquitous. Classics like The Call of the Wild or animated movies like The Secret Life of Pets can give you insights into our favorite pets. The library is full of stories created about dogs, and the internet can show you breeds you never knew existed. Check out the Pumi breed, one of the latest additions to the American Kennel Club!
Oil or chalk pastels are the perfect media to use for this project. They allow you to create the rich colors in your portrait that the Renaissance was known for. However, if pastels are not available, consider colored pencils, paint, or crayons, using a variety of techniques and pressure to highlight the image.
Once you have created a lavish portrait, you will have to build a lavish frame to show off your dog. In the original lesson plan an air-dry clay was used, but you could also consider scrap boxes and cardboard you have access to. You can cut out a frame skeleton to fit around your portrait and use found materials, along with cardboard scraps, to create a dimensional frame. Consider adding shapes and objects that will accent your dog’s style. Once completed, it can be gilded with gold paint prior to showing off your dog’s lavish portrait.
Tips for the Dogs of the Renaissance Project:
- Research Renaissance artwork and framing styles
- Create and frame composition in a reflective style
- Use patterning and found objects in your frame design
More School Specialty/Sax Animal Art Lesson Plans
Want to try something else? Be sure to check out these other art lesson plans and view our Art Lesson Plan collection for even more.
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After 24 years as a college admissions director, Mary crossed over to provide the materials for art education as a member of Sax, first as manager of Inside Sales, then as National Sales Manager. Mary has overseen a team of 15 art consultants. In 2000 Mary and her team created Sax Lesson Plan Book partnerships with prominent art supplies vendors. Meanwhile, she has refined her own artful style of presentation at various national, state and local conferences.
For Nadine, art education has been her life’s work, including an Ohio teaching license, 5 years teaching elementary art, and 19 years in higher education (teacher prep). She has served Sax for 25 years as a Category Account Manager, Art Consultant, and Subject Matter Expert. In the latter capacity, Nadine has presented at various national, state, and local conferences.