Here an errand boy is urging his dog to attack a schoolboy who conceals a whip, as if he’s about to beat the animal. Behind, another dog sits patiently, watching a group of boys playing a more innocent game.
This is one of a number of paintings by Mulready (1786-1863) showing children playing, but with strong undertones of violence and cruelty. Contemporaries admired the artist’s meticulously detailed technique but complained about the obscurity and moral ambiguity of his subjects.
You can see this painting at Sudley House.
- Oil paint on canvas, painted in 1830
- Bequeathed by Emma Holt in 1944
- Accession number WAG 278