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M.A. Peers

American, b. 1964

The Gazehound

Oil on upholstery fabric
95 x 85 in. (241.3 x 215.9 cm)
Gift of the Kathryn C. Wanlass Foundation

She has been with us forever, this noble Afghan beauty. Her breed is old, among the first domesticated dogs that left behind the fraternity of wolves to join humans as they embarked on the messy process of civilizing. She is even rumored to have entered the ark with Noah. If so, then she has seen everything: the best and worst of humanity.

Her visual acuity, speed, and grace as a hunter provided her access to the innermost circles of the ruling class in Balkh, birthplace of the prophet Zoroaster and capital of the ancient kingdom known as Bactria. An early meeting place for trade between East and West, Balkh was overrun—again and again, by this ambitious tribe or that one—until the city gave up its ambitions, which are hinted at in glorious ruins.

In Kabul, during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80), when the British fought to check the ambitions of the Russians by forcing the emir of Afghanistan to accept the United Kingdom’s governance, she was enlisted by the army to swiftly deliver messages between battalions. Befriended by soldiers, she was taken back to Britain by one of them, much as her cousin, the Saluki, arrived home with an eleventh- century warrior of the Crusades as living proof of the pilgrimage accomplished.

She became a darling at the wildly popular Kennel Club dog shows of the Victorian era. It is then when she ascended from the handwoven kilim at her master’s feet to the comfy, damask-covered cushions of the sofa.

Skillfully and elegantly depicted here by M. A. Peers, this regal hound matches the viewer’s own direct gaze with mild yet intelligent eyes. She has seen enough. Gently, but firmly, she dares the viewer to dislodge her from her tranquil domestic throne.

Kristina Newhouse

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