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Representing Dogs as Rational Near-Equals in Eighteenth Century British Portraiture

Luba Stephania Kozak

This article discusses the unconventional modes of representation in Thomas Gainsborough’s portrait of Henry Scott, Third Duke of Buccleuch, as well as the challenges of categorizing the painting within a specific subgenre of portraiture. Gainsborough’s painting of Henry Scott was unparalleled in its depiction of an intimate relationship between an adult male owner and his pet, which comments on the change in social attitudes towards animals that were beginning to take place in early modern Britain. Through an interdisciplinary approach, combining discourses in contemporary posthumanist theory as well as early modern philosophies, this study focuses on an analysis of how the dog in the painting of Henry Scott is represented as a near-equal subject with a unique identity and attributed with visual characteristics that convey its capacity for rationality.

Keywords: Portraiture, Posthumanism, Unconventionality, Animal Rationality, Identity 

Luba Stephania Kozak completed her master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (Art History and Philosophy) from the University of Regina, Saskatchewan. Her thesis was written on Thomas Gainsborough’s portrait of Henry Scott, Third Duke of Buccleuch and her interests include animal rights issues in early modern British art and literature.