‘Cave Canem’, Beware of the Dog, from Vesuvius 79 AD, replica guarding entrance to Bantry House, West Cork, acquire on Grand Tour by Viscount Berehaven pre 1840.

Cave Cane
Beware of the 2,000 year-old dog!
Cave Canem (Latin – ‘Beware of the Dog!’) The dog we are here being warned about probably lived in England in the second quarter of the 19th century, but it must have had ancestors in Italy nearly two thousand years ago, because this is a copy of a mosaic found in Pompeii – hence the Latin – buried in volcanic ash when Vesuvius erupted on 24 August AD79.

Cave Canum tile panel

The ‘House of the Tragic Poet’, excavated in 1824-1825, is named after other mosaics discovered there depicting scenes from the theatre. But it was the dog mosaic found in the entrance hall that seized everyone’s imagination – including some enterprising sort who saw a potential profit in selling copies to tourists. An unknown number were made, most likely in or around Naples, and sold to visitors, amongst whom the English were prominent.

However, the only others known to Hampshire Museums are two sets which guard the entrance to Bantry House, overlooking Bantry Bay in Ireland. They were taken there by Viscount Berehaven, son of the first Earl of Bantry, some time before 1840. Until then he had been travelling in the tradition of the 18th century ‘Grand Tour’, during which young aristocrats were expected to acquire knowledge of European culture and quantities of art and antiques.

Lord Richard Viscount Berehaven, 2nd Earl of Bantry. (White/Bantry), (1800-1868) Bantry, Pre 1831. Bearhaven Lord “In a Silver Box, as a testimony of their High Esteem for this highly respected young Nobleman”. (1821) Subscriber 1821 Dr Thomas Wood’s ‘Primitive Inhabitants of Ireland.   Notified as Magistrate of Catholic Meeting on Loyalty to King 1825.  Deputy Lieutenant 1832. Member Commission  on Magistrates 1838.  Attending Protestant Conservative Society meeting 1832.  Protestant Protest Meeting Bandon 1834. He enjoyed an income of £9,000 per annum. He also married well in 1836 in London ; his wife’s Lady Mary O’Brien’s (a descendant of Brian Boru) dowry was £30,000.  At Bantry Vote Registration Session 1840 with Augustus Payne JP (His Land Agent), Revs Sadler and Triphook.   Probably focus of perceived ’Orange’ faction in Bantry by Liberals.  On death of his father became Earl of Bantry in 1851 following 3 years abroad. He amassed Bantry House Art Collection. Member provisional Committee projected Bandon to Bantry Railway 1845.  Beara Estate sold to Lord Clinton c 1850 subject to scathing criticism of him and agent Patrick O’Sullivan, Millcove by Dublin Barrister Prendergast of treatment of tenants and recovery of arrears.