We are grateful to Dr. Francesco Petrucci, curator of Palazzo Chigi, Comune di Ariccia, for confirming the attribution on the basis of photographs (27 July 2006) and for his assistance in this catalogue entry.
The coat of arms on the dog's collar are those of Cardinal Flavio Chigi. Clearly the Chigi hounds were highly prized by their owner: Flavio owned four portraits of greyhounds, set in landscapes on the Chigi estates, also by Pace, that were painted for his apartment on the ground floor of the Palazzo Chigi in Ariccia, and that are still on view there (see I. Faldi, 'I dipinti chigiani di Michelangelo Pace', Arte Antica e Moderna, 1966, pp. 144-8, nos. 34-6). In addition, the Cardinal's accounts of 1665 and 1666 show payments made to Pace for no fewer than 12 canvases, with two greyhounds each, to be sent to his villa Versaglia in Formello. The dog portraits would have fitted in well to this country seat inspired by Versailles, and of which the decoration strongly reflected its owner's passion for hunting. Further portraits of dogs painted for the Chigi houses are listed and known, although none can be firmly identified with the present work (see F. Petrucci, Le Stanze del Cardinale, exhibition catalogue, Ariccia/Rome, 2003, pp. 94-7, 150-2; F. Petrucci, Le collezioni berniane di Flavio Chigi, tra il Casino alle Quattro Fontane e la Villa Versaglia in C. Benocci, I Giardini Chigi, Siena, 2005b, pp. 191-208; F. Petrucci, Appendice Documentaria III, in C. Benocci, I Giardini Chigi, Siena, 2005c, pp. 464-95, and V. Golzio, Documenti artistici sul Seicento nell'archivio Chigi, Rome, 1939, pp. 171-2).
Born in Siena, Cardinal Flavio Chigi moved in 1656 to Rome to work as Secretary of State to his uncle Fabio, who had been elected Pope Alexander VII. There he became a great patron of the arts, acquiring, with other members of his family, the palazzo in Piazza SS Apostoli (now Palazzo Odescalchi), which he commissioned Gianlorenzo Bernini and Carlo Fontana to remodel. Fontana was also to build the Villa di Versaglia for him in 1664. As well as housing the series of dog portraits, the Chigi villa at Ariccia contained his museum of antiques, sculptures and mirabilia and well as a collection of 36 portraits of Roman beauties.
Michelangelo Pace was born in Rome and as well as working for the Chigi, he also worked for other prominent families such as the Rospigliosi and Pamphilj. Mostly known as a still life painter, his extraordinary series of dog portraits must reveal knowledge of Guercino's celebrated Dog in a landscape of circa 1625 (110.7 x 173 cm.), now in the Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena, California.
The present picture was most probably acquired by the 6th Earl of Arran and kept at Castle Gore, Ballina, co Mayo, until the castle was destroyed by fire in 1922, this picture happily remaining unaffected. It has remained in the family ever since.