A Medley of Dogs
I have commented in the past that no other subject in art offers as diverse a selection as the dog, and I am sure this won’t be the last time I feature a medley of dogs.
Unless one wants to own a finished picture, one doesn’t have to spend a lot of money to own an original by one of the leading artists in the genre. This was evident in recent sales by Parker Fine Art in their saleroom in the Surrey countryside when they sold work by Arthur Wardle and Thomas Blinks, both coincidently featuring Gordon Setters.
The Wardle was an oil of two heads against a hint of the Scottish Highlands with a large sprig of heather in the foreground. It was a slight variation on the picture reproduced on postcards. It sold for a low estimate £2,000.
The Blinks was a charcoal sketch of a dog in profile that was offered together with a sketch of a Bulldog’s head, and they found a new home for an above-estimate £220.
Researchers and historians often struggle with breed identification in pictures painted in the mid- to late 19th Century. In this case, are the dogs the now extinct English White Terrier, popular from the 1860s, or white Bull Terriers that started to appear in the 1850s following the breeding program of James Hinks?
The consensus of opinion with this picture painted by Sylvester Martin in 1868 and offered by Parker’s is that the dogs are Bull Terriers. The deciding factor is often head shape, the Bull Terrier having the more chunky head, as these dogs have, and the English White more refined like the Manchester Terrier.
Thanks to the countless engravings and also the frequency in which it has been reproduced in books, “The Spanish Pointer” is the most popular and well-known of all George Stubbs dog pictures. The dog stands on point with fields and distant hills unfolding in the background. Painted circa 1768, the original owner was the publisher Thomas Bradford. At least four versions by Stubbs are said to exist but their status is uncertain. The only one signed is in Munich and is probably the original. It was once in the collection of the King of Bavaria at Schloss Schleissheim. It was first engraved by William Woollet, being a mirror image of the original painting, and it was a Woollet engraving that Parker’s sold mid-estimate for £120.
The Jewellery, Watches and Objects of Vertu sale at Dix Noonan Webb in London included fine late Victorian and Edwardian silver and enamel vesta cases by Sampson Mordan & Co.
They were topped by one enamelled with a scene of a shooting party in an open woodland landscape beside a stream and hallmarked for 1909. The stance and dress of the man firing the gun and the inclusion of two Labradors and a Clumber Spaniel suggest that the man is King Edward VII. He was a very keen shot and championed the Clumber Spaniel as a working dog, something his great-great-granddaughter, Princess Anne, does today.
The market appeared to think it was the king, for it sailed over a modest guide of £600-800 to bring £3,000.
Staffordshire figures were made in some of the most appalling working conditions ever know in the U.K. As a general rule, prices for most Staffordshire dogs, the quintessential Victorian fireside ornament, have dipped markedly to what they commanded some 25 to 30 years ago.
The pair of recumbent Greyhounds, circa 1850-60, is a rare model with particularly desirable decoration: unusually large at eight inches across, colored with “blackberry” spots, “Disraeli” curls and a rare coveted turquoise ground. This turquoise ground is deemed something of a trophy with collectors.
Like so many Staffordshire models, they did have some damage and were offered by W & H Peacock with a very modest estimate of £100-150. Bidding started at £1,000 online, but it ended up being fought in the room between five U.K.-based telephone bidders, taking the hammer price to a mighty £6,400. This was the highest sum paid in the Victorian Staffordshire category for many years and could well be an auction record for a pair of “comforter” dogs.
To appeal to the market and collectors, as we have just seen, Staffordshire models have to have something special that lifts them from the rest. This “something special” was seen again when Kinghams in the Cotswolds sold a pair of standing Greyhounds for £3,800 against an estimate of £300-500. They were keenly contested by bidders from both the U.K. and the U.S., finally selling to a U.K. collector.
Their appeal was in the subject matter: one of the most famous coursing Greyhounds of all time, Lord Lurgan’s “Master M’Grath,” and W. Punchard’s “Pretender,” who Master M’Grath beat in the final of the 1871 Waterloo Cup. The pair was almost certainly modelled to commemorate the final.
Collectors of dog collars in a hundred years’ time – if there are such things – will think that on the whole dog owners in the 20th and 21st centuries, compared to those of previous centuries, were very lacking when it came to ornamentation for their pets.
Ornate and presentation collars are not exactly rare items on the market from previous generations, and Adams in Dublin recently sold one such Victorian presentation silver collar for Euros 2,200, double expectations. It was engraved “The Fire Brigade Association, presented to Jack as a memento of the great Dublin meeting, August 1888, by Col. Sir C.H. Frith, President, Chas M. Foottit, A.W. Sheen and H.W. Nicholson, Vice Presidents.”
Jack was almost certainly a Dalmatian, but it is not clear why he deserved the honor. He would have trotted alongside the horse-drawn fire engine helping to clear the way.
Finally, a little light relief: a medley of dogs relieving themselves up a wall, with the Bulldog making a perfect aim at a cat on the wall. It was the creation of the French artist and cartoonist Boris O’Klein, whose output was extensive, but he is perhaps best known today for his anthropomorphic “Naughty Dogs of Paris” series; those prints are as popular today as they were when they were first published in the 1930s. The watercolor sold at Michael Bowman Auctions within estimate at £400.