A Mixed Message

Painted tiles representing mosaic depicting a leashed dog with the mottoes Cave Canem and Salve.  Beware of the dog and welcome respectively.

Beware of the dog and welcome!

Beware of the Dog | Welcome

What did visitors to Bantry House make of this mixed message?

These painted tiles from the Giustiniani workshop in Naples date from a tour of Italy made by Richard White Viscount Berehaven (later the 2nd Earl of Bantry) with his wife, Lady Mary Berehaven, in 1843/1844.  The tiles are painted to give the impression of mosaic and were inspired by the famous mosaics found in Pompeii and Herculaneum.  Following good collecting practice, the Berehavens purchased their tiles in matching pairs.  These were sent home ahead of the couple’s return and were, at an unknown date, installed in the entrance hall of Bantry House, the seat of the Earls of Bantry.

Item BL/EP/B/A/10 that resides in the Archives and Special Collections of the Boole Library in University College Cork dates from this period.  It is a large album in which are arranged sketches and full colour paintings of the sites of Pompeii.  It is a handsome volume of approximately 48 x 32 centimetres, with green leather covers tooled with gilt decoration and inscribed Naples 1843.  The content consists of pasted in sketches and paintings and loose leaf items.  There appears to have been more than one hand at work in the creation of the album. Looking through the album it is easy to imagine the Berehavens wandering through these sites admiring the antiquities while perhaps discussing their plans to bring a piece of the ancient world home to Bantry.

It is clear that Berehaven was captivated by dogs as they appear in many of his sketchbooks.  Upon what that interest was based is unclear.  As he was so often from home he may not have had a particular canine companion and there is no record of him attempting to develop a breed that would have been named for him, as was a fashionable pursuit with some aristocrats in the period.  Neither was he a ‘hunting, shooting, fishing’ type that would have valued canine utility.

That he had a sense of humour is clear from his juvenilia, so perhaps the idea of both welcoming and warning visitors appealed to Berehaven and his wife. Protected by facsimile mats, which the docent will happily remove for your viewing pleasure, the tiles remain in situ today, still warning foes, and greeting friends.

If you would like to read more about dogs in this period check out this WordPress blog, Jane Austen’s World Regency Dogs


One response to “A Mixed Message

  1. Pingback: Cave Canem | Salve | The Grand Tour and the Irish Grand Tourist·

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