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Oil painting - The Old Shepherd's Chief Mourner
  • The Old Shepherd's Chief Mourner
    Landseer, Edwin Henry
  • Enlarge image

The Old Shepherd's Chief Mourner

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Britain (painted)

  • Date:

    1837 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Landseer, Edwin Henry (Sir), born 1802 - died 1873 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 122, case WS

Object Type
Oil paintings with sentimental scenes of animals became popular with collectors such as John Sheepshanks and the Rev. Chauncy Hare Townshend, as well as with the Victorian public in general.

Subjects Depicted
Landseer's choice of subject illustrates the Victorian obsession with the trappings of death, combined here with his speciality, the accurate and almost anthropomorphic representation of dogs and other animals. Its mixture of pathos and realism appealed to all sections of society, and the critic Ruskin praised the fine technique and the subtle choice of details. This painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1837 and proved a great success, particularly as an engraving after this picture was published and sold widely in the following year.

Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-1873) was a child prodigy, exhibiting some drawings at the Royal Academy when he was only 13. From an early age he was a frequent visitor to the menagerie in Exeter Change in the Strand, London, where he drew lions, monkeys and other animals. Animals remained the main subjects of his art. Queen Victoria collected his paintings, as did John Sheepshanks. The two biggest collections of his work are in the Royal Collection and here in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Physical description

In a sparsely furnished room, a dog rests its head on the coffin of its master, the shepherd.

Place of Origin

Britain (painted)


1837 (painted)


Landseer, Edwin Henry (Sir), born 1802 - died 1873 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas


Height: 45.7 cm, Width: 61 cm, Depth: 7 cm, Height: 702 mm framed, Width: 857 mm framed, Depth: 68 mm framed

Object history note

Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857. By Sir Edwin Henry Landseer RA (born in London, 1802, died there in 1873)

Exhibited at the Royal Academy 1837

Descriptive line

Oil painting entitled 'The Old Shepherd's Chief Mourner' by Edwin Henry Landseer. Great Britain, 1837.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, Ronald Parkinson, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1990, pp. 143-44
Richard Ormond, Monarch of the Glen: Landseer in the Highlands. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, 2005.
100 Great Paintings in The Victoria & Albert Museum. London: V&A, 1985, p.130

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This scene of the sentimental devotion of a dog won praise and popularity for its famous artist, Edwin Landseer. The animals he painted display human feelings and characteristics. One of the important aims of British art of the day was to illustrate sentiment and affection in paintings. [27/03/2003]


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Dog (animal); Grief; Coffins; Death; Shepherd; Sadness


Paintings; Death; British Galleries; Anthropomorphism; Images Online


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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