An oil painting of Sharp, Queen Victoria's favourite dog is to feature in 'Dogs in Show & Field: The Fine Art Sale' on 16th February 2011 at Bonhams New York. The painting, by the Norfolk artist Charles Burton Barber, has attracted a pre-sale estimate of $4,000-6,000. Once in the personal collection of the Queen, the reverse of the picture bears The Windsor Castle inventory stamp and a further stamp denoting the Queen's property.
Sharp was a smooth-coated Border Collie who was named after a government minister who Victoria favoured at the time. The dog was her preferred companion and lived at Windsor Castle – he was a familiar sight at her side almost everywhere she went. After his death he was buried in Windsor Home Park, Berkshire, with a tomb stone that reads "Sharp, the favourite and faithful Collie of Queen Victoria from 1866 to 1879. Died now 1879 aged 15 years."
No stranger to his regal position, Sharp was known as an ill-tempered dog who frightened most of the royal entourage and who regularly fought with other dogs. As Victoria notes in her diary of Wednesday 6 September 1869 "At five minutes to eleven rode off with Beatrice, good Sharp going with us and having occasional 'collie-shangies' (a Scotch word for quarrels or rows) with collies when we came near cottages."
Sharp's affection was reserved only for the Queen and of course the formidable John Brown, whose companionship the Queen depended upon after the death of her husband Prince Albert.
As a breed, the Collie experienced a surge in popularity as a result of Queen Victoria's patronage, and as William Secord notes, with seven separate breed clubs by 1895 the Collie transformed from a rough and ready working dog to a refined show dog by the end of the 19th century. Although Victoria kept collies as pets and only briefly showed them, her involvement with the breed encouraged other women to exhibit and this subsequently led to the forming of the Ladies Kennel Club, which had the specific remit of preventing cruelty in exhibiting practice. She was also a keen supporter of the RSPCA.
Charles Burton Barber (1845 – 1894) was revered as one of England's finest animal painters during his lifetime and was blessed with Royal patronage. Queen Victoria commissioned him to do paintings of her with grandchildren and dogs, and also the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and his pets. A number of his portraits are in the Royal Collection.
Laura Turnbull of Bonhams 19th Century Pictures department comments, "This painting is a wonderful reflection of the bond that can exist between owner and dog. At a time when the Queen needed companionship the most, Sharp was her trusted and closest friend and the fact that his tomb sits to this day in the Queen's personal and private garden is tantamount to his importance in her life after the death of her beloved husband Albert. Our annual Dog Sale is a celebration of that very relationship and we are delighted to be offering such a charming work."