Guards


The statues of dogs in an alert pose with their heads turned in a direction opposite to the pivotal axis are exact counterparts of the corresponding heraldic symbol. This is an animal in sejant attitude (in a sitting position) with elements of regardant (looking back). In classic sculpture, guards are featured as lions more often than as dogs. The imagery of the dog in such contexts is less common, although one can come across such examples in classic palaces and estates, including in Russia – for instance, in the decoration of the main staircase at the historical estate of Arkhangelskoe. The classical interpretation is somewhat different from the medieval notions, including the Russian national concept, in which amulets were not only material incarnations of protective and guarding spirits but also symbols of eulogy. Images of guardian dogs do not have such apotropaic connotations. In these statues, the treatment of volumes and forms, and the modelling of surfaces are of the classical kind. However, in this context heraldic references as such evoke the Middle Ages as a generic symbol of the historical past. Such mixture of different artistic aspirations is remarkable for the desire to reconcile different pieces in the mosaic of humankind’s cultural experience, to bring it to a common denominator. The clear combination of monumentality and ornamentality within the classic tradition enriches and adds complexity to the form, so the cultural affiliation of these animalistic statues is uncertain. They are in place equally well indoors as outdoors, by a main entrance at the foot of a staircase, or within a quiet alley of a landscaped garden.

 

Brief annotations to the image

GUARDS, THE HERALDIC SYMBOLS: strictly speaking, animals depicted as guards are not heraldic symbols – rather, they are charges, because their images are placed outside the field of an escutcheon. There are several known iconographies of the charge, differentiated by the turns of the heads and bodies, and the poses.