Children of the Marquis de Béthune Playing with a Dog

/ Work of the Week

Les Portraits de MM. de Béthune jouant avec un chien (The Children of the Marquis de Béthune Playing with a Dog), François-Hubert Drouais, oil on canvas
“Les Portraits de MM. De Béthune Jouant avec un Chien” (Children of the Marquis de Béthune Playing with a Dog), 1761, François-Hubert Drouais. Oil on canvas. The Eugenia Woodward Hitt Collection, 1991.254.

We’re spending a lot more time with our dogs lately and our furry friends are loving it just as much as we are. For many of us, dogs are members of the family and are often included in family portraits. There is one dog breed in particular that stands the test of time as the most popular dog to be painted, and that is the pug!

Pugs have been one of the most beloved dog breeds throughout much of modern history. They are one of the oldest and most recognizable dog breeds in the world and the rich history of the pug spans centuries and covers multiple continents. Pugs have been a preferred companion of royalty throughout history. Most historians trace the origin of pugs to ancient China where they were held in such high regard that only royal families were permitted to own them. Royal pugs lived a life of luxury that most people in ancient China could only dream of; however royals weren’t the only ones to enjoy pugs, as even Buddhist monks kept pugs in their monasteries in Tibet. By the 1500s, European traders were so enamored by the Chinese pugs that they brought them back to Europe and the pug craze spread across the continent. Pugs appeared in artwork by famous painters and continued to be common companions for royalty and aristocrats throughout Europe.

The work of the week is a French painting by the artist François-Hubert Drouais, and offers a great example of the love and adoration pugs received in 18th century Europe. The two young boys in this painting are Armand Louis II (b. 1756) and Armand Louis Jean (b. 1757), sons of Armand Louis I de Béthune. As members of the aristocracy, the children owned a pug, and the artist included the dog in the painting as a status symbol. Here the children are dressed in adult costumes and depicted teaching their cherished pug how to play guitar.

This isn’t the only work of art featuring a pug in our galleries, so when the Museum reopens to visitors, we challenge you to take our pug crawl to find all the pugs in the BMA!