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Dressed to the (ca)nines

Beatrice Smith

Puppies, poodles and…Marie Antoinette? It’s time to get historical with your hound. 

This Saturday 21 January, the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) and National Portrait Gallery (NPG) will be throwing an event that’s sure to get some tails wagging.

There’s nothing better than a dogs day out, and the two galleries are making sure you do it in style (and learn a thing or two on the way) at Paws for Art, a full day of dress ups, painting, curator talks, show bags and, of course, walkies.

NGA Curator Simeran Maxwell (whose own fur babies include an English Mastiff and Mastiff x Great Dane Staghound) describes the event as “a great fit” for the Gallery. This might surprise some people, however, as far removed as the glamorous and formal world of Versailles seems from the pet Instagrams of today, Simeran says not much as actually changed.

“All of the kings were passionate dog lovers,” she explains. “They had hunting dogs – as hunting was the sport of kings – but they always had their favourites.”

“Starting with Louis XIV, [kings] would keep their favourite hunting dogs not in the kennels but in a room adjacent to their own bedroom – so they were actually closer to the king than the queen was!”

Simeran says that dogs would also often be included in royal portraits because they were considered part of the family.

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“The only king that stretched himself between dogs and cats was Louis XV – cats at the time were still considered bad luck which is why a lot of people in Europe didn’t have them as pets.”

So what will this fur-tastic Saturday entail? Starting with an outdoor photobooth where your pooch can don their very own Marie Antoinette costume, the fun will continue with a ‘Picnic Talk’ from curators about the importance of pets at Versailles.

Indeed, Simeran says that French royalty were dog lovers to the point where their pets got more face to face time than their spouses.

“[Marie Antoinette] came from Austria when she was very young…and she came with her favourite dog Mops, who was a pug.”

Unfortunately, Marie Antoinette had to leave her ‘Austrian heritage’ behind at the border – including Mops – on her journey to Versailles. Luckily, after settling into the royal court, an exception was made and Marie Antoinette was reunited with Mops – a story I’m sure all dog lovers can appreciate.

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“There’s even a story about how Marie Antoinette adopted a dog…when she was in jail at the end of her life and it stayed with her until the end,” says Simeran. “So her life starts with dogs and also ends with dogs. They were company when everyone was being so mean to her.”

After the talk, NGA staff will lead both owners and their furry companions on a tour of the gardens with the Royal Court band providing an elegant soundtrack.

A hop, skip and a jump across the road, the National Portrait Gallery has already hosted one animal themed event – The Country Fair last year – to align with their current exhibition The Popular Pet Show.

After 11am, you’ll have the opportunity to cross the road and continue the fun at the NPG. Activities here will include a show bag of goodies from Best Friends for the first 100 visitors, the opportunity to paint a portrait of your pup and even the chance to meet some young AFP Canine recruits and learn about how they’re trained.

You can do all of this while listening to the dulcet tunes of alternative pop band Betty Alto from 11am, followed by guitar duo Don Carlo from 1 – 3pm. There will also be a variety of pet-friendly stalls from local business owners including Dogs on the Run, Pups 4 Fun and more!

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SOME THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

This event is limited to dogs only to ensure harmony. To ensure a smooth day please make sure your doggy is fully vaccinated, on a leash at all times and is socialised and generally non-aggressive to people or other dogs.

Make sure you also come prepared with sunscreen, sunglasses, hat and appropriate outdoor clothing and poo bags to collect ‘doggy deposits’.

the essentials

What: Paws for Art
Where: The National Gallery of Australia from 9am-11am and the National Portrait Gallery from 11am onwards
When: Saturday 21 January
Cost: Free
More information: nga.gov.au/whatson/highlights

Images by Martin Ollman

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Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Editorial Coordinator involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise you’ll find her at the movies, ordering a cheese board or ordering a cheese board at the movies. More about the Author

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