Ancient Egyptian cats, Renaissance hunting hounds, Futurist horses galloping wildly: no matter the era, no matter the style, pets have been a mainstay across cultures and their artistic expressions for millennia. It’s rather unsurprising, then, that furry companions are a fixture in many of the artworks across Florence.

Titian, Venus of Urbino
 

Titian’s sensual Venus of Urbino in the Uffizi Gallery features a small dog at the foot of the bed, symbolizing fidelity and likely indicating that the woman’s overt gaze was meant for her husband. Interestingly, the same dog appears in another painting by Titian in the Uffizi’s collection, Portrait of Eleonora Gonzaga, Duchess of Urbino, where once again the animal symbolizes fidelity—in this case, Eleonora’s faithfulness to her husband Francesco Maria, whose portrait by the Venetian artist was made as a companion piece to his wife’s painting. (Both works are displayed in the same room).

Benvenuto Cellini, a star of Mannerist sculpture, is said to have cast his Plaque with Greyhound, now at the Bargello Museum, when practising for his ambitious Perseus with the Head of Medusa in the Loggia dei Lanzi. The simple, oval piece depicts a bas-relief of a dog, and was made to figure out how to use the materials he had at his disposal before launching into his larger project.Titian’s sensual Venus of Urbino in the Uffizi Gallery features a small dog at the foot of the bed, symbolizing fidelity and likely indicating that the woman’s overt gaze was meant for her husband. Interestingly, the same dog appears in another painting by Titian in the Uffizi’s collection, Portrait of Eleonora Gonzaga, Duchess of Urbino, where once again the animal symbolizes fidelity—in this case, Eleonora’s faithfulness to her husband Francesco Maria, whose portrait by the Venetian artist was made as a companion piece to his wife’s painting. (Both works are displayed in the same room).

The Accademia Gallery also plays host to amici pelosi. The museum’s Gipsoteca, where plaster casts are stored, houses several works by renowned Neoclassical sculptor Luigi Pampaloni, including his Young Boy with Dog, showing a child playing with his pet, who lovingly accepts the attention.

For the more fanciful pet owners, the Museo Novecento is the place to check out, home to two contrasting depictions of horses. Marino Marini’s Horse depicts the artist’s signature bronze steed standing tall on his platform, while nearby is an altogether different interpretation of the noble animal: Fortunato Depero’s Nitrito in velocità, an emblematic work of Second Futurism.

Spotting four-legged friends in paintings and other artworks—whether they’re confined to the background or sitting front-and-center in a portrait—can turn a routine museum visit into a fun scavenger hunt of sorts. Try it to spice up your umpteenth visit to the Uffizi or as a way to keep kids engaged while you make the Renaissance city museum rounds.

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