By Carleton Varney Special To The Palm Beach Daily News
Oh, how I love Staffordshire dogs! I adore these antique porcelain pups in every shade — white and black, henna-red and white, and even solid black.
These Cavalier King Charles spaniel figures have a fascinating history. The breed itself was popularized by Queen Victoria, and the porcelain versions were made by children and mothers in Staffordshire, England, beginning in the mid-19th century. The figurines were often called “comfort dogs,” as they were sometimes given to children when money was not available to buy or maintain a real pet.
I have been decorating with dogs of the porcelain variety for many years, and I have a number of Staffordshire pieces in my home. Small dogs stand on the mantelpiece, medium-size examples pose on decorative brackets mounted on the wall and large versions sit on each side of the fireplace hearth to guard against — well, I don’t know what they might be guarding against, other than the busy hands of my young grandson Bowie.
Everyone in my family loves dogs, porcelain and otherwise. And while King Charles spaniels are sweet, I prefer Westies myself.
Mario Buatta, the late decorator and a friend I miss dearly, loved Staffordshire porcelains and it was rare indeed to see one of his interiors that did not feature the dogs in some way, whether they were porcelain versions displayed on wall pedestals or the subject of paintings gazing lovingly down at you.
There are so many painters who have depicted the King Charles spaniel that when you visit an art gallery devoted to sporting and equestrian paintings, you will surely find the breed prominently on view.
At my company, we once designed a charming fabric called Francie and Grover, the name of two of my favorite dogs, and have often used it as drapery in a library or for pillow covers in a den or living room.
You also will find Staffordshire dog designs on clothing. I’ve seen, for instance, that the young daughter of Julie Lazarus, our vice president of fabric sales, sometimes wears a dress on which Staffordshire dogs appear with their smiling faces. The dress also brings a smile to the girl in it, I’ve noticed.
I’ve also seen needlepointed Christmas ornaments depicting those lovable spaniels, as well as rugs and wall hangings. I think animal images are always a plus for walls in a young child’s room.
So here’s to the charming Staffordshire dog, which would make a nice Christmas or Hanukkah gift for any dog lover. They don’t growl, they won’t chew on your slippers and they never need walking