'One look at the picture evokes the stiff-terrier-legged, rat-murdering, wild-boar-defying bravery and the heart-melting sweetness of the little thing that brings so much joy to our lives.'

Doris, 2015, by Emma Sergeant

Doris, 2015, by Emma Sergeant (b. 1959), 30in by 25in, Private Collection.

Adam Zamoyski chooses Doris by Emma Sergeant

‘I have opted for my wife’s portrait of our rescue-home mongrel bitch Doris, who rules the yard of our farm in Poland.

‘When we’re in London, one look at the picture evokes the stiff-terrier-legged, rat-murdering, wild-boar-defying bravery and the heart-melting sweetness of the little thing that brings so much joy to our lives.

‘How delightful to learn, researching my book on Napoleon, that the Peace of Amiens was shattered by the plucky HMS Doris.’

Adam Zamoyski is a historian and author. His new book, Napoleon: A Life, was published this month.

John McEwen on Doris:

Emma Sergeant was brought up in London (her father is the financial journalist Sir Patrick Sergeant) and studied at Camberwell and the Slade. She won the National Portrait Gallery’s Portrait Prize as a student and is still its youngest winner.

Her first show, at Agnew’s in 1984, sold out, but, preferring independence, she went to the North-West Frontier to paint Afghan warriors and refugees from the war with Russia. She had eight further shows – at Agnew’s and the Fine Art Society – and, this summer, a retrospective in Siena.

Seeing polo in Pakistan made her play the game in England, at Alan Kent’s Madams Farm. He suggested she add equestrian art to her repertoire. ‘I noticed how horses knew before me when a picture wasn’t working. I’ve found this to be true of all animals. It’s also liberating not dealing with the fragile human ego or the frightful experience of having to do portraits of people on Prozac.’

She’s painted many famous people and made foreign painting excursions with The Prince of Wales, but, since her marriage to Adam Zamoyski, divides her time between Poland and their base in London. They paint, write, farm, ride and breed horses in Poland, which is Doris’s home.

‘Every time I look at Doris, I want to paint her, but, much as she enjoys being the centre of attention, she does not enjoy artistic scrutiny. I have never known a dog with such character. I’m not sure painting her has revealed much to me, as I know and love her anyway. She’s our mascot.’

The artist’s Siena retrospective ‘Touch the Spirit’ is moving to London, where it will inaugurate Green & Stone’s new gallery at 251–253, Fulham Road, London SW3 from 16-25 November.