Toy Dogs in Art Part IV - Toy Dogs in Pottery
By Connie Limon
One of the most favorite subjects for the craftsman in porcelain and earthenware has been toy dogs in particular. In Chinese work it has been hard to distinguish between the lion and the dog. The lion-dog and the dog-lion share a lot of Chinese myth. The dogs of Fo during the reign of K'ang Hsi were dogs, however, and not lions. In the city of Peking in 1680 the Emperor K'ang His set up an imperial kiln. At that time it was possible there were a million people working porcelain at 3,000 kilns. This production situation has never been matched.
Dogs of Fo, also sometimes called guardian lions, are found frequently, generally in pairs and usually with the male playing with the traditional woven ball and the female with one of her cubs. Dogs of Fo were made in huge quantities between the years of 1662 and 1722. They were without doubt small dogs of the Pekingese type. It has often been said that it is very doubtful the Chinese ever saw a real lion during this time they referred to these animals as being lion-like, and that it is much more likely the Dogs of Fo, even though they had somewhat of a lion look, were actually dogs and not lions.
Pugs in pottery are seen even more frequently than the Pekingese type of the Dogs of Fo. A pottery artist named Kaendler, who created works at the Meissen factory used Pugs often.
In the eighteenth-century Staffordshire potters began to produce models of Pugs. Their early efforts were not all that nice as representations of the pugs. These pieces of pottery are becoming more and more valuable; however, they do not look like the typical specimen of the Pug. They are pot-bellied, long in the leg and have peculiar expressions.
The French sculptor, Francois Roubiliac, created a piece that looked much more like the Pug. The head looks like a Pug. The tail may not be just right and the legs are still rather long, but this was quite an improvement from what had been created earlier. It could also be that the models of Pugs did have longer legs.
Sculptors are still creating Pugs today and as time goes on, the pieces continue to look more and more like a real Pug.
One of the most interesting little dogs portrayed in porcelain was the dog of Madame de Pompadour, produced in Vincennes around 1750. It is felt that this piece if almost certainly a Maltese. The little Maltese is now a rare collector's piece.
The toy spaniel is another breed of toy dog that has been a favorite of the pottery modeler over the centuries. At one time most all households had a representation in pottery of their pet dog, or even a pair of dogs, sitting on their mantelpiece. Most of these were most likely toy spaniels, almost certainly Cavalier King Charles spaniels. They were produced by the thousands, but do have a great charm. The details of the face were hand-painted and each one was slightly different. Younger people did most of the color work on these pieces, which gave the pieces an air of enjoyment and youth in keeping with the whole character of toy dogs in general.
In the years of 1820 to 1850 the majority of these pieces was sold at country fairs and was surprisingly high quality. By early Victorian times almost all cottages had pottery figures and the dog, which was so much a part of the life of country people, it was just a natural choice to become a popular subject for pottery makers. Many pottery makers made dogs, but it was Staffordshire potteries that produced them the thousands.
Almost every breed was modeled at some or another and no two are ever absolutely identical due to each potter and painter's slightly different style. They all did have some common features. They were almost usually all white with spots and patches of red or gold on ears and body. They usually had a padlock hanging from the collar and a chain slung across the brisket and over the back, most often in gold.
What do all these pottery pieces of dogs tell us? They tell us not so much about how the dogs looked at the time, but more that toy dogs in particular, enjoyed a lot of popularity in the early nineteenth century. Dogs, particularly the toy dogs, were as much a family member then as they are now, and probably even more now than then. The pet and pet care industry is one of the most lucrative businesses there is in the year of 2006.
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Author: Connie Limon, http://smalldogs2.com/Poodles and http://www.camelotarticles.com