Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Power dogs of Paris

The power dogs of Paris

Featuring left to right in the four pictures above are Typhon - Giscard d'Estaing (ex-president), Caramel - Aillagon (boss of Versailles, former Culture Minister), Diego - Donnedieu (Former Culture Minister) and Alphonse - Mitterrand (Culture Minister). The only cabot at the show which is not face-on is Paddy de Rothschild.Le Figaro noted today that the animal from the great banking family "has a haughty look"

What do the dogs of France's rulers tell you about their masters? There is a chance to find out at a new exhibition of 67 portraits of celebrity canines -- and one cat.

Jacques Chirac, the last President, was the only famous dog owner who declined to have his or her companion sit for Antoine Schneck, a well-known photographer, at his studio. Clara Sarkozy (a labrador) and Dumbledore Bruni (chihuahua) are not there either.

Schneck's striking face-on photographs of politicians' and stars' animals are on show at the Musée de la Chasse in the rue des Archives. The idea of the big close-ups, each on a 3-3 feet print, was to "express the psychology of the animal", says the curator Claude d'Anthenaise. "The visitor is in a situation of inferiority confronted by these colossal beasts, presented in the dominant attitude usually reserved for powerful men," writes Anthenaise. "Have they become the masters of the world. In any event, they form a potentially dangerous pack." The exhibition is simply called Leur Chien -- their dog.

Dogs have long accompanied the French nobility, like the English. They have been useful power accessories in recent decades. Dogs wander the salons of several Sarkozy ministries. There are no mongrels or poodles. Labradors are the favoured breed -- bourgeois and reassuring. That applies everywhere of course. All French presidents since the early 1970s have had labradors.The faithful Baltique used to trot alongside François Mitterrand in the 1980s. In 1988, Jacques Chirac attacked Mitterrand for raising tax on dog-food during the presidential election campaign.
Chirac's labrador Maskou was wrongly accused of devouring the Elysee Palace ducks when he finally won power in 1995. The Chiracs later aquired Sumo, a bichon. Last year France learned with sorrow that Sumo had been banished to a new home after suffering post-Elysée depression and biting the ex-president. Their latest toutou is another bichon called Sumette.
Ah, it's a dog's life à la Française,
Cara - Tuesday


  1. In the next political campaign the candidates should appeal to the average voter by acquiring an average dog.

    Mixed breeds, especially if they are rescues, are the animal equivalent of the green environment movement. Who wouldn't respond to a politician who saved a dog from destruction? Mixed breed rescues can carry an element of mystery, too. We have one that the vet says is part dachshund and he has no idea what else.

    Powerful men don't need to prove they are powerful by having powerful dogs. A mutt can't trace his roots and I bet there are politicians who would rather that no one trace their's.

    Everyone likes an underdog. It would be a smart thing to be seen throwing a stick for one to fetch (a canine underdog, not the human variety). And if the dog actually brings back the stick to play again, the pol looks like a pal and that is a good trick for a politician to pull off.


  2. I like the rescue dog idea Beth. The French, and everyone, likes the underdog, roots for them and maybe sees a bit in them of themselves.

    Maybe that explains the old actor Jean Gabin's appeal...?


  3. Great pictures, although the only one of the four that looks to me like he's sitting on a wallet is Alphonse, if Alphonse is the Dobie. Caramel looks like she lives in a purse, though. And Labradors just can't look haughty. Deep inside, they're always saying, "Can we be friends?"

  4. And you give Aimee Leduc a dog in your books. Above and beyond all of the symbolism, they are companions. I would imagine this is especially true for those at the top--when they aren't sure who is and who is not a friend and ally.


  5. I forgot to mention I am just finishing up Murder in the Bastille. It is my first read of one of your books, and I love the way you treated Aimee's blindness. Superb.