Tuesday 13 December 2022

Tuesday 13th December - The Last of the Garrison

I was in bed last night, in about fifteen layers of clothing (just to paint you a delightful picture) and I suddenly thought of a really tragic painting that would be perfect for Stabvent (yes, Mr Walker has a lot to put up with).  I was sure I had used it before but couldn't remember its name only that it involved a tragic death.  After much searching, here we are...

The Last of the Garrison (1875) Briton Riviere

I still remember the first time I saw this in Manchester, how grim it is and how much I like that in a painting.  There are many Stabvent entries that you would not grieve over but this flatten dog is actually very tragic indeed.  Also, Briton Riviere does a splendid dog - he could never paint a dog he wasn't fond of, so I'm assuming he really liked this rather lovely mastiff/bloodhound/large doggo (the newspapers weren't sure) as he has done a splendid job.  Look at his little feet! I digress...


Sorry, back to the tragic-ness - so, I always assumed that this dog had died in the battle, an inadvertent casualty of a battle to emphasise the awfulness of war but The Morning Post set me right (unless they were being optimistic).  They thought that the dog is the last person left in the house where there has been a battle, but any intruder who thinks the home deserted is going to be surprised by 'the last of the garrison', this brave, if a little sleepy, dog. They praise the Aesopain nature of it all and I will endeavour to use the word 'Aesopian' as often as possible because it makes you sound clever.

The Northwich Guardian say it's a bloodhound who is bleeding to death, which is a bit blunt and they could have broken it to us more gently than that. I did think that The Morning Post's interpretation of the tongue hanging out as being 'thirsty' was kidding themselves. The Graphic also opts for 'wounded' and says the execution and colouring is too 'opaque', which is picky but at least the dog is still alive.

The Oxford Journal comments on the discarded arquebus, dropped by its dead owner, the match still smoking.  I will also try and drop the word 'arquebus' into everyday conversation from now on but it might prove more difficult that 'Aesopian'...

A Random Shot (1848) Edwin Landseer

I love Briton Riviere and actually prefer him to Landseer who gets more of the animal art kudos.  I'm guessing it's because of Monarch of the Glen and the fact Landseer was there first, but Riviere does fabulous dog pictures which, in my humble opinion, are better than Landseer's. I included A Random Shot in Sobvent a couple of years ago, and it is marvellously miserable.  Someone shot Bambi's Mum! Outrageous. The pathos of a fallen animal as a symbol of man's folly is a common theme in Victorian art. That's weirdly self-knowing in a way, but I suspect it is subconscious, but possibly that's our own interpretation in hindsight.  The destruction of animals, birds, deer, dogs, for no reason other than they got in our way, or we fancied killing something, seems a matter for great pathos in art but no deeper thought in society.  Maybe then it is not about the animals?  The animals do often stand for something else, like this...

The Dead Bird (1866) Paul Constant Soyer

It's not about the bird, it's all about the death of innocence and purity in the world.  The Victorians loved a little girl clutching a dead finch because it feels like an acknowledgement that the world is awful and the sooner we get used to that the better.  In a way it's schadenfraude, as we enjoy the moment that children realise life sucks on the whole. Maybe I'm being too harsh, but I think the Victorian's love of 'grief tourism' is because life should be marvellous but it isn't.  I can think of a few people I know who suffer from the same thing, always angry because life is unfair when it should be all sunshine and roses like on the adverts. Rats.

Life is short and cold and then someone puts a cannonball through your dog.  You might as well be cheerful while you can.

See you tomorrow...


  1. Oh, I wasn't expecting animals to be involved in Stabvent! I am less worried about people in these images because people are basically rotten to each other given half a chance, but animals are generally blameless (unless they have been treated badly by...people!)
    Moving swiftly along, bracing myself for future images and hoping for fewer animal injuries...
    Best wishes

  2. I'll try my best to use "life is short and cold and then someone puts a cannonball through your dog" in a work meeting today.


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx