Arts / ‘Dogday’ frolicking at the galleries

THE Canberra public should prepare for more canine madness this weekend as the National Gallery of Australia and the National Portrait Gallery join to present a “pawsome” family day out with Paws for Art this Saturday, and today at the NGA Sculpture Garden, there has even been a few would-be canine royals seen checking out the facilities in preparation for the weekend. 

Max the Kelpie sometime thinks he’s a king, his owner says.

You could argue that the Portrait Gallery has more of an excuse with its exhibition “The Popular Pet Show” well into its summer run.

But as NGA curator of international painting and sculpture, Simeran Maxwell, tells “Citynews”, “at Versailles the King, the Queen, the courtesans and the courtiers were all dog people”.

Not cat people mind you – they were considered to be bad luck – but so popular were our canine friends that Louis XIV, for instance had a special room of his bedroom for his furry companions, with the finest artisans engaged to create furniture with beautiful upholstery to keep them comfortable.

Maxwell notes that for the men, hunting dogs were all the rage, but these, unlike Australian watchdogs, were considered entitled to a measure of luxury.

As for the mistresses and the Queen, lapdogs were the fashion, especially the “Papillon” (butterfly) dog with pointy ears seen in many of the Versailles paintings and the pugs so favoured by Marie  Antoinette.

Another regal kelpie, Narlah

Indeed the story goes that when the Austrian Queen was brought to France as a young girl her greatest grief  was being forced to part with her Austrian pug at the border. So lonely was she at first  that the court relented and allowed her to reunite with her beloved dog, who repaid the favour by barking at all of the guard dogs walking by.

Maxwell describes Saturday’s doggy shindig as “an opportunity to partner with the National Portrait Gallery to bring a combined event for summer and enjoy the sculpture garden”.

She says it will be a good day out where you can dress your dogs up and even have them photographed as the French king.

Meantime the National Gallery’s copywriters are having a field day with the puns, telling us that “Fur-tunately, the National Gallery of Australia is pawndering to your furry friends with a doggy day out in the Sculpture Garden”.

‘Marie Antoinette’ relaxes with Diesel the dachshund.

They advise bringing the whole family—including the family pet—for a morning of fun, which will include the best-dressed competition, the Hall of Mirrors photo booth and  an opportunity to “snap your shaggy mate in Marie-Antoinette or Louis XIV regalia on the golden throne”.

On a slightly more serious note there will be curatorial talks on dogs and their status at Versailles, as well as doggie treats and tea, coffee, cupcakes and croissants for the humans.

Across the way at the National Portrait Gallery, dachshunds, whippets, and pugs are already on show, but on Saturday the NPG’s  forecourt will be filled with activities for people and dogs, including music by Alto and Don Carlo, the chance to meet some young AFP dogs and learn about their training methods and several pet-friendly stalls.

As well, they tell us, “For the first 100 visitors to the Best Friends stall there is a surprise in store that is sure to make your tail wag!”

 “The Popular Pet Show” continues at the National Portrait Gallery until March 13.

($10/$8, Children under 18 free) is on display until March 13.

NPG activities, 11am–1pm

Draw a portrait of your pup while you listen to live music starting with Betty Alto, alternative pop band, followed by Don Carlo, guitar duo from 1–3pm.

11am -12pm

Meet some young AFP canines between and learn about how they are trained.

11am onwards

‘Best Friends’ show bags for the first 100 visitors to the stall.

“Versailles: Treasures from the Palace,” (children 16 and under free when accompanied by a ticket-holding adult) at NGA, until April 17.

On Saturday there will be a limited number of dog-minders available as no dogs are allowed inside. Dogs must be vaccinated and on a leash at all times.

“Paws for Art,” activities Sculpture Garden 9am-11:30am, Saturday, January 21.

9.45am and 10.45am.Picnic curator talks – Hear tales about dogs and their status at the Palace of Versailles.

9am-11am, Best dressed competition.

11am, dog parade.

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