The child's practised eye instantly noted his father's state. He dived under the table, where experience had taught him was a rather safe place. The dog, lacking skill in such matters, was, of course, unaware of the true condition of affairs. He looked with interested eyes at his friend's sudden dive. He interpreted it to mean: Joyous gambol. He started to patter across the floor to join him. He was the picture of a little dark-brown dog en route to a friend.

It's from 'A dark brown dog' by Stephen Crane in 1893.

What does the picture mean exactly?

It sounds a bit odd for me to just interpret it 'image or figure' in the flow of sentence.

2 Answers 2


Historically, a portrait (painting of a person) was referred to a likeness, and the phrase "has a likeness to" is used to mean "bears a resemblance to".

Similarly, in the phrase "He was the picture of a ... dog", the 'picture' is meant to state that the dog bore resemblance to a stereotypical dog that is happy to meet a friend.

In this context, "picture" doesn't mean only the visual appearance, it also means the behaviour (i.e. joyous gambolling, pattering of the feet).


He was the picture of ...

means in this context

He looked just like ...

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