Giant portraits of the dogs of the great and good of French political, business and social life are being exhibited at a canine hall of fame that has opened in Paris.
"Leur Chien" (Their Dog) takes a light-hearted look at what the pooches of France's social elite might say about their owners.
AdvertisementValery Giscard d'Estaing, a former president who has two hunting dogs in the show, was among the celebrities who attended the exhibition's official opening last Wednesday along with a dozen live mutts.
"The idea was to do a portrait gallery from the point of view of dogs," said Claude Anthenaise, the curator of the Musee de la Chasse in the historic Le Marais district that is hosting the show.
"It reverses the traditional relationship between master and dog. We feel like prey in the gallery."
Wandering around the gallery is a slightly unnerving experience, with the the giant faces of 68 dogs, one domesticated wolf and a lone cat staring out at at the visitor.
Antoine Schneck, who spent three years photographing the dogs, presents only their heads against a black backdrop in a square-metre (three-square-foot) frame.
"The most difficult dog was Alphonse," belonging to Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand, because he just wouldn't sit still when Schneck went to take his picture in a country house in Normandy, the photographer said.
Another Mitterrand mutt is on show -- a labrador called Theleme belonging to Mazarine Pingeot, the daughter of the late Socialist president Francois Mitterrand, who was Frederic's uncle.
The current French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, declined to have his labrador Clara photographed, and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy also said no to a picture of her chihuahua Dumbledore.
And erstwhile president Jacques Chirac, who gave away his Maltese terrier Sumo after it kept attacking him, declined to take part because he did not want to be associated with the museum, which is dedicated to hunting.
Giscard d'Estaing had no such qualms, however, proudly displaying his two black retrievers named Typhon and Beauly.
"When I arrive, they (the dogs) jump in the air for joy," he told AFP. "I've never met a human being who jumps with such joy when I arrive."
Former culture minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon, currently the director of the Palace of Versailles, also reflected on the sometimes superior nature of canine relationships.
"The loyalty of dogs is an illness that does not infect humans," said Aillagon, whose King Charles Spaniel was one of the dogs winking, drooling, yawning and licking their lips on the museum walls.
Many of the dogs belong to politicians or business people, but France's actors were also represented, with mutts belonging to cinema stars Isabelle Adjani and Daniel Auteuil on show.
And about third of the dogs were also the pets of ordinary people who Scheck met in the street. Ten of these dogs came along with their owners to the opening of the exhibition, which runs until September 26.