So many busy people, fetching, carrying, unpacking. A few are adoring: there's one of the Three Wise Men bending in for a good look at a cutely tubby Baby Jesus, while the other two stand behind, striking poses and waiting their turn. There's a horse, a donkey, a camel - there's even a monkey in the lower left corner - all unbothered by the business of making offerings, gazing directly at the Child.
Then there's the dogs, featured front and center. Stepping softly, they are nosing up to people they know, wanting to see what's happening. You can guess what they'll do next. They'll pad up the two steps to the Virgin Mary, over the worldly crown discarded underfoot. Then they'll be perfectly placed to raise their noses, sniff, wag their tails. Hello, new friend. And what better new friends for a child than creatures full of love, loyalty, and the immediate joys of living?
This Adoration of the Magi was painted by Francesco Bassano the Younger (1549-1592) at some point in his adulthood. He clearly knew how to observe dogs. I wish he had learned more from them; he died unhappy at 42, I'm sorry to say.