Wenceslaus Peter made a number of dog portraits for English Grand Tourists in Rome and these are probably hunting dogs belonging to an English aristocrat. He painted Tawny, a spaniel belonging to the 6th Duke of Devonshire, in the landscape of the Roman Campagna in 1819.
Born in Karlsbad in 1745, Peter practised as a gunsmith, coin engraver and sculptor before moving to Rome in 1774, where he enjoyed a successful career as a landscape, animal and portrait painter in the neoclassical style. He became a professor at the Accademia di San Luca in 1812. Peter worked for Prince Borghese, painting animal frescoes for the casino of the Villa Borghese, for the banker Torlonia and Lord Bristol. His animal paintings, which included dogs, horses, cows, fozes, otters and hares, are distinguished by their high finish and subtle characterisation. He shared with Stubbs, who also studied in Rome, the neoclassical interest in 'nature red in tooth and claw'. Peter's A tiger attacking a bull, signed and dated 1785 (Christie's London, 9th December 1994, lot 316; private collection) can be compared with Stubbs' dramatic paintings such as 'White horse attacked by a lion, dated 1770 (Yale University Art Gallery). Both are influenced by classical sculpture.