This elegant terracotta model of a greyhound was made in Rome by the sculptor Joseph Gott. Writing in his Guide to the Studios in Rome, published in the year of Gott’s death, F. S. Bonfigli noted: ‘In his Atelier is to be seen a very curious collection of fancy groups of dogs, of all races, in playful attitudes.’ Gott had been apprenticed to John Flaxman before entering the Royal Academy Schools in 1805, where he gained a silver medal. In 1822 Gott was sent to Rome on a pension from Sir Thomas Lawrence, who described him in a letter of introduction to Antonio Canova as possessing ‘blameless Integrity & Worth.’ The following year Gott was commissioned to produce a marble of A Greyhound with her two Puppies by William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire for the celebrated sculpture gallery he was forming at Chatsworth. Much enamoured of the finished sculpture, the ‘Bachelor Duke’ observed in his Handbook to Chatsworth of 1844 that Gott is ‘the Landseer of marble.’
Unlike his contemporaries, John Gibson and Richard Wyatt, who specialised in neo-classical subjects of high moral principal, Gott preferred the naturalistic depiction of animals and children. The former were not without antique precedent; Gott was clearly influenced by the second century Roman portraits of greyhounds that had been discovered at Monte Cagnolo, in the 1770s by Gavin Hamilton. One of these sculptures, depicting two greyhounds, was installed along with other similar Roman marbles in the Sala degli Animali in the Museo Pio Clementino. Gott’s depiction of dogs are remarkably naturalistic, in the current masterfully handled terracotta, Gott shows his subject recumbent but alert, as though just roused by a sound. Preserved on its original Roman marble base, this charming portrait is entirely characteristic of Gott’s dog portraiture and underscores why he was so celebrated for such works.