The Volcano. Vesuvius. Pompeii. The Pompeii Dog.
Not just human casts: the dog of Pompeii.
He was found on November 20, 1874, chained at the entrance to the House of Orpheus or Vesonius Primus (VI. 14.10).
He had already felt the imminent change, the earthquakes increasingly frequent, the earth that opened and sank. - I heard him barking more and more often in those days, he was nervous like other animals, but he kept guarding the splendid House we call Orpheus, for the fresco dedicated to the god that plays.
On [August] October 24th, year 79, however, Vesuvius woke up and the rain of ash and lapilli filled the house little by little: first the impluvius, then the atrium, the garden and the small dog found himself alone, bound to the entrance that had always protected.
He probably tried to draw the attention of the owners or of a passerby, but no one could help him in tragedy. He died alone, strained by the great collar and chain, and after suffering from gas and heat.
The house came to light between 1834 and 1874, and archaeologists realized the animal when faced with the footprint left by the body in the eruptive material. They cast a cast following the same process that happened with human bodies and objects and from ash the shape of the dog resurfaced.
The cast shows a specimen of canis catenarius, in other words, housekeeping and probably also hunting, as suggested by the analysis of morphological characters, and also allows you to recognize the leather collar with two bronze rings that tied it to the chain.
He was found a chain lengths up in the hardened ash layers. He had writhed and wrenched his way up till the tether of loyalty restrained.
The leather collar is thought to be inscribed with a tale of reward for protecting his master while hunting. Perhaps that’s why the dog was bought home and came to be chained in the entry. A famous mosaic found in Pompeii depicts such a dog - Cave Canem - Beware of Dog.
The dog's cast is currently on display at Antiquarium di Boscoreale-pagina di consultazione.
My obsession with the Pompeii Dog grew out of my interest in dead birds, images of dead animals, and historical dead animals. It is the foundation of my body of work, Ruins, about Pompeii and Volcanoes. I have hundreds of images of the dog. He is in much of my work.
Here are a few in various media - printmaking silkscreen and etching, oil painting large and small:
Small oil painting
Large oil painting