Dapper Dogs
By Karen Parr-Moody

Dogs have been leaping into man's décor since ancient times; archaeologists have discovered them everywhere from Egyptian tombs to Chinese temples. Then, in the last half millennium, canines have come to life through the oil paintings of many European painters.
More recently, canine designs made their way to the masses with such motifs as the popular ceramic dog figurines of Staffordshire, England. These came to be loved by such tastemakers as Diana Vreeland, the late Vogue editor, who featured them in her apartment (designed by Billy Baldwin) and Dorothy Draper, the legendary interior designer, who placed them in the fabled Greenbrier Hotel.  

Today dog motifs are as popular as the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and at GasLamp and GasLamp Too they can be found in an array of materials, from plaster to bronze to porcelain.

It doesn't get more Hollywood Regency than this plaster greyhound in the photo, right ($250; Booth T-193 at GasLamp Too). This fabulous find displays the full glamour of the greyhound's lean lines — complete with pink tassels around its collar, naturally. For centuries greyhounds have been depicted in hunting scenes, but more recently they became symbols of the Jazz Age when Erté including one in his most famous drawing, "Symphony in Black." The piece features a lithe woman cloaked in entirely in black,  complete with a dramatic headpiece and fur, and paired with a black greyhound on a leash.

In the photo, left, is a foo dog, its eyes bugging and its tail wagging ($25; Booth T-193 at GasLamp Too). While the dog's dreamy silhouette hints at emperors passing by in a formal train, foo dogs aren’t actually dogs at all, even though Westerners call them such. They are protectoral lions that date back to the Han Dynasty of China (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.); they are known to the Chinese by the names "Imperial Guardian Lion," "Stone Lion," or "Lion of Buddha."

Few items exemplify the 1950s era as much as the poodle, as seen, right, with this charming ceramic version ($125; Booth T-297 at GasLamp Too). (It has a darling aquamarine collar painted around is neck for added charm.) The poodle skirt kicked off the craze of that decade; it was first designed in a young actress-turned-designer named Juli Lynne Charlot in 1947. But this retriever dog is believed to have originated as far back as the 15th century in Germany, where it was known as the Pudel, from a word which means "to splash in the water."


It should come as no surprise that GasLamp has a painting from the 1800s of an unknown dog, left, rendered lovingly in oil by some Victorian artist, then placed in an ornate gilt frame (signed painting, $495; Booth W-101 at GasLamp). Although artwork featuring dogs goes back centuries before Queen Victoria, her influence significantly increased the popularity of dog art, especially portraits of pets. Prior to Queen Victoria’s time, dogs in paintings had primarily been represented in sporting scenes, so the look didn't have the portrait style that it took on during the queen's reign.

From ancient Egypt to modern times, from the temple to the family hearth, dog breeds have inspired affection and art. They have evolved from royal pets into loving companions. And as a bonus, their images bring beauty to today's décor.

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