There are often times when items found in Historical & Special Collections (HSC) have little or no explanation, but the mystifying nature of these discoveries can be part of what makes them so delightful and, sometimes, so bizarre. The image of “The Fainwood” shown below comes from the 1977 Harvard Law School Yearbook and presents us with an eclectic mix of law students, pets, and assorted props.
The Fainwood is listed in the yearbook with other student activities, which in 1977 ranged from the Law Review and Chicano Law Students Association to social groups including the Friday Afternoon Club and Trivia Contest group. The Fainwood is simply described in the yearbook as “A tradition of gracious living since the Mesozoic era” and, gracious or not, is notable for highlighting its non-human residents.
This image is part of the Photographs of HLS Students Collection, which is one small piece of over fifty-thousand prints and photographs held by HSC. Additionally, HSC boasts an impressive collection of legal portraits. Over three hundred paintings and sculptures of significant figures in Anglo-American legal history make up the Legal Portrait Collection, and among these are a number of portraits that also feature dogs.
Animals appeared in Gothic and early Renaissance paintings, and dogs eventually began to appear regularly in European portraiture in the 15th and 16th centuries. Over time, the presence of dogs in portraits became less a symbol of loyalty and fidelity and more a fashion accessory or representation of a specific and cherished pet.
The engravings seen at right, left, and below highlight a few legal figures with their canine companions.
Though the image of the Fainwood raises far more questions than it answers, we can only hope that the students in the photograph have gone on to be not only dedicated lawyers but also devoted pet owners!
 Gibson, Robin. The Face in the Corner: Animals in Portraits from the Collections of the National Portrait Gallery. London: National Portrait Gallery Publications, 1998.