The Small Water-Spaniel

Wood-Engraving Print
1790 (first published)
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

A Water Spaniel with light and dark markings, viewed in profile, looking to the right of the image. Thomas Bewick's monogram (a T and B sharing the same vertical stroke) is in the lower-left corner of the image.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Wood-engraving print on laid paper
Brief Description
'The Small Water-Spaniel', viewed in profile, looking to the right of the image. Wood-engraving print on paper. Illustration featured in 'A General History of Quadrupeds' (first published 1790). Engraved by Thomas Bewick. Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
Physical Description
A Water Spaniel with light and dark markings, viewed in profile, looking to the right of the image. Thomas Bewick's monogram (a T and B sharing the same vertical stroke) is in the lower-left corner of the image.
Dimensions
  • Of sheet height: 9.8-10cm
  • Of sheet width: 13.6cm
Marks and Inscriptions
(Thomas Bewick's monogram (a T and B sharing the same vertical stroke) is in the lower-left corner of the image.)
Object history
Formerly C.8991, a list showing both new and old numbers in 64/2371



This engraving featured in Thomas Bewick's first major independent publication, A General History of Quadrupeds, first printed and published in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1790. The publication contains illustrations of animals, alongside brief descriptions of their appearance, habits and habitats, accompanied by a number of illustrative vignettes, used mainly as tailpieces.



The text accompanying the illustration (in the publication) reads as follows:



'THE SMALL WATER-SPANIEL is similar to the other [The Large Water Spaniel] in form, habits, and disposition; and its capacity for receiving instruction is equally good. With looks of extreme attention and sensibility, it observes the motion of its master, and catches the well-known signal with amazing promptitude.

The various tricks which these Dogs are sometimes taught to perform, seem more like the effect of reasoning powers, than of undiscerning instinct.
'



Taken from: Beilby, Ralph and Bewick, Thomas. A General History of Quadrupeds. Newcastle upon Tyne. Third Edition, 1792.



Historical significance: Thomas Bewick was the first engraver to exploit fully the advantages of end-grain wood (the wood is cut across, rather than along, the grain). Once it had been proved that the technique could rival the fine effects of metal engraving, the advantages of wood engraving to the book trade were quickly recognised. Allowing both text and illustration to be printed in one operation, it ousted the intaglio process as the favourite for book illustration and was only superseded at the end of the nineteenth century when methods of photomechanical reproduction were developed.
Historical context
The English Water Spaniel breed became extinct during the early 20th century.

The breed has been also documented in paintings by Henry Bernard Chalon and Ramsay Richard Reinagle.
Production
Thomas Bewick's A General History of Quadrupeds was first published in 1790.
Subject depicted
Associated Object
Bibliographic Reference
Taken from Departmental Circulation Register 1964
Collection
Accession Number
CIRC.563-1964

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record createdJuly 1, 2009
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