The present animal is possibly one of only two of this model extant. The second is a glazed white example formerly in the collection of Gilbert Lévy. Sold at auction in Paris at the Hotel Drouot, 23 November 1967, lot 135, its current whereabouts are unknown.
Notable both for its large size and almost palpable grace and strong character, the animal is an example of Vincennes and Sèvres soft paste sculpture at its best. Despite the limitations of the medium, the dog exudes strength, its ribs and musculature clearly visible beneath his coat. A comparison with the Lévy example (fig. 1) points up the importance of the painting in bringing out the character of the animal. Given the firing crack extending in two directions from the top of the base up into the animal's ribcage and down to the edge of the base, it is likely that the grasses added in muted shades of brownish-pink, green and brown to the naturalistically chased ground were meant to serve as camoflage. Indeed, given the comparatively large size of the piece and the thickness of its walls, it is extraordinary to find only one such firing flaw. However, it is the markings sparingly applied in manganese to the eyes, snout and ears that give the dog the doleful endearing expression that sets him apart from the other.
In the 18th century as now, dogs were popular. The Vincennes inventory of 1752 lists no fewer than 259 dogs in stock. Unfortunately, they are described in such a cursory fashion that it is impossible to attribute with certainty a particular example to a particular entry. Complicating the process further is the fact that there seems to be little difference in price noted between painted examples and those left in the white.
An examination of the inventory as reproduced in the de Bellaigue/Eriksen book and as discussed in the catalogue entry for the present animal yields several feasible entries that may correspond to the present example. Is he the single gros Dogue peint priced at 8 livres? Or perhaps one of the four chiens Barbet or water spaniels priced at 10 livres each? Or perhaps the even more expensive Gros Dogue peint sold to the dealer Bazin for 18 livres on 14 January 1754? Or, are this dog and the painted dog listed in the 1752 inventory, both simply described as Dogue peint, one and the same animal, the price having gone up in the intervening two years? If this is the case, the present animal may be a unique example of its type.