Turn your pet into a work of art

Pet painting
Rens Hageman
Rens Hageman

Fancy turning your beloved pet into an Old Master painting? That’s what hundreds of pet owners are doing - with hilarious results!

It's the hilarious new craze for animal lovers - transporting your pet back to a bygone age of grandeur by having it morphed into an Old Master portrait.

The results are priceless, and rumour has it the trend has even come to the attention of the Royal Family with an enquiry made. Photographer and designer Susan Beard tapped into a tendency to put our pets on pedestals when she created her company The Regal Beagle - and now cats, dogs and even parrots can become emperors, dukes, statesmen, kings and queens.

Susan’s online gallery shows a menagerie of pets posing with the utmost seriousness in velvet, ermine and lace, with crowns on their heads and sceptres in their paws.

They sit on thrones or pose at writing desks. They paint, they sew. Two pug dog sisters hold paws as Jacobean ladies. A parrot is Vermeer's Girl With A Pearl Earring.

'We look at the pictures and can't stop laughing,' says Susan. But there's something particularly hysterical about recreating the Royal Family's dogs as Renaissance nobility.

The Regal Beagle has transported Lupo, William and Kate's black spaniel, back to the Spanish court of the 16th century, where he poses as Prince Don Carlos, son of Philip II of Spain - a proud prince with blue blood heritage, just like his not-so-old master.

Poor Prince Don Carlos became wild and unpredictable after suffering a head injury falling down stairs, and once forced a shoemaker to eat shoes he found unsatisfactory. Lupo probably likes to chew a good royal shoe too.

Camilla's Jack Russells Beth and Bluebell have been turned into a pair of 16th-century Italian noble children, adapted from a painting by Sofonisba Anguissola of her younger sisters, while either of the Queen's corgis Willow and Holly could become Isabella de Medici, the tragic distant cousin of Catherine de Medici who was appointed Regent of France after her husband Henry II died.

Three of Catherine's sons became King of France, and as well as being credited with inventing the corset she was in charge of France's 16th-century spies - a fitting relative for the dogs who met James Bond Daniel Craig when their mistress was filmed for the Olympics Opening Ceremony in 2012. "Her Majesty has so many portraits of her ancestors on her walls" , says Susan, "what could be better than having her beloved corgis posing regally alongside them? After all, pets are family".

What gave Susan, 52, the idea to start The Regal Beagle? "Two reasons" she says. "I absolutely love animals, and in a short space of time I lost my Russian blue cat called Grey of 18 and a half years and my sister Sharon, who died of cancer. I was devastated. Grey was my baby. I always saw him as Napoleon. He was a little thing but very commanding with lots of cattitude. Somehow having him as Napoleon on my wall for always made everything better. There was so much sadness but I turned it into something fun, creative and playful."

She thinks cats work particularly well as ancient royals, and shows me a hilarious portrait of a ginger cat as Queen Elizabeth I. "I've grown up with cats" she says. "I've had them all my life, and perhaps cats are funnier than dogs."

Erika Letitia, 30, the artist who works on the pet portraits, adds, "Dogs tend to have bigger personalities that are easier to see. Cats are often more distant, so seeing them like this is just so funny."

She diverts me to one of her favourite commissions, two London tabby moggies called Chewy and Cow posing as 18th-century French aristocrats Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun and Louis Charles de Bourbon, Count of Eu.

"See, they make you crack up." Erika has turned her own mongrel, a rescue dog called Milo, into a gentleman from the 17th century in a scarlet and chestnut frock coat and fancy white shirt and cravat.

He's transformed instantly from scruffy dog to hound of importance. "Now I look at pets and I see them as Old Masters. For instance when the picture of a parrot came in I could only see Vermeer's Girl With A Pearl Earring. I encourage people to send as many photos as they can so I can work on the best one. The more options the better, so I get a better idea of the pet's personality. One client wrote back-stories about what each of his cats did in this other royal life. They had museum-style plaques made depicting a fictional history for the cats in the pictures as long-distant relatives of their current cats. Hilarious and sweet. If people want two pets in one painting we find an Old Master with two figures. Sometimes a family. We want to be challenged."

Most people supply their own photos - it helps if there are several with the face at many angles and shots of paws so that Erika can get the most authentic match to the original painting. Anyone can contact The Regal Beagle online and they'll advise you on how to capture a variety of angles to show your pet at its best - they recommend straight on and at eye level, not from above or below. The costs vary according to the size and the type of frame you choose, ranging from a small stretched canvas (5x5in) from around £100 to a large framed canvas (11x14in) at just over £200, plus shipping. Not a princely sum to pay for a unique ancestral 'pawtrait'.

(Article Source: The Daily Mail)

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