Greyhounds were the subject of several well-known nineteenth century European painters including Agasse and Courbet. Henri D'Ainecy, Comte de Montpezat specialized in recording the elegant dogs and horses of the Second Empire's aristocrats. D'Ainecy's nonchalant informality of the poses adds to their natural hauteur. He depicts the greyhounds as streamlined abstractions emphasizing the perfection of their silhouettes and tight-skinned bodies.
The greyhound has been used predominantly for hunting and coursing the hare until the Victorian era. It was during the early part of the nineteen century that the sport of coursing made great strides. The pedigrees of the most celebrated greyhounds were recorded with as much care as the best bred horses of the turf. With the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century, many new and wealthy individuals moved to the country, eager to establish themselves and align their names with the older families and to find appropriate diversions for themselves. The membership of the many coursing clubs in England increased dramatically during this time and the sport became extremely popular. While the greyhound had been depicted in art before the advent of coursing events, it was in the nineteenth century that pride of ownership prompted owners to have portraits of their individual dogs painted. Greyhounds are often painted in pairs as the rules of coursing dictated that they hunt in this way.
D'Ainecy's painting follows in the strong French tradition of dog painting which flourished in the eighteenth century with Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1725-1805) and Alexandre-François Desportes (1661-1743). The present work is possibly inspired in composition by Oudry's Missi and Turlen, Two Greyhounds Belonging to Louis XV (1725) which shows two of the King's favorite greyhounds. They were displayed at Versailles in 1726 and the painting is a very matter-of-fact yet elegant portrayal of two dogs in a landscape. D'Ainecy's work is rare in the wider context of French animal painting in the nineteenth century for its focus on the animals belonging to aristocrats where fellow artists looked not to the values of the eighteenth century, but towards the new outlook engendered by the revolution and tended to depict instead realistically portrayed dogs in the context of everyday life.