This is one of the most celebrated dog paintings of the 19th century. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1840 and subsequently acquired by the 6th Duke of Devonshire (1790–1858). The Duke later asked the artist to add his Blenheim spaniel to the picture as a cub reporter.
In the picture Landseer uses the individual characters of the breeds of dogs to satirise various members of the legal profession. The white poodle, with the similarity of its long ears to a legal wig, parodies the pomposity of a judge.
The painting was recognised at the time as a satire on the Court of Chancery, set up to deal with common law problems such as contested wills. The endless delays in the court exhausted the finances of the litigants while enriching its lawyers, an issue memorably taken up by Charles Dickens in Bleak House.