Oodles of Poodles at Chiswick Auctions

Images above: Staffordshire poodles from the collection of Mrs Patricia Rose

Included in Chiswick Auctions Interiors, Homes and Antiques sale on 30 September is a large private collection of 19th century Staffordshire poodles. They belonged to internationally renowned breeder of Miradel poodles, Mrs Patricia Rose of the miniature Poodle Club of Great Britain.

The history of poodles is a fascinating one. It is thought the breed emerged on the Continent, probably in France or Germany as early as the 16th Century. But whilst we all think of dogs as our furry loveable companions, we must not forget that in history, they were either seen as ‘useful’ or ‘pets’ and poodles fell into both classifications.

Prior to the 19th Century, poodles were mainly treated as ‘useful’. Known as ‘water dogs’ they were used as a gun dog for duck. Their distinctive trimmed coat can also be attributed to this working heritage, in fact ‘the lion clip’ as it was known, came about not for cosmetic reasons but for practical ones. The tight cut allowed them to shake off water quickly as they emerged from rivers whilst also leaving enough coat to protect them from rheumatism around the knees and protect their vital organs.

Images above: Staffordshire poodles from the collection of Mrs Patricia Rose

By the beginning of the 19th Century the poodle had been adopted as a pet, becoming popular as a companion dog.  At around this time, Staffordshire factories saw an opportunity to profit from their popularity by producing ceramic versions in their thousands. Whilst the earliest known models were produced in London by the Chelsea factory in around 1765, the height of production came much later during a very set period between 1830 – 1850.

Why poodles were so popular during this exact period is unclear, but it is generally thought interest in the breed was stimulated to an abnormal extent by the appearance of poodles in travelling circuses and other places of entertainment. This made them particularly appealing to children and children were a very important market. Sometime during the 1840s, there was an emergence of a miniature version or ‘toy’; these tiny cheaper models were particularly accessible.

Generally depicted in white, poodles were modelled either seated or lying down, some having pups but many modelled as circus dogs, in a comic pose, for example holding a black hat in the mouth or being ridden by a monkey. Interestingly they are rarely modelled with humans.

Images above: Staffordshire poodles from the collection of Mrs Patricia Rose

Whilst factories such as Rockingham, Derby and Chamberlain Worcester produced their own range, most came from unidentified Staffordshire factories operating at the time. Early models are hardly ever marked but despite their simplicity, they are relatively well made with sharp modelling. As they are hollow, they feel relatively light but due to their fragility, they rarely survive intact, commonly having chips, cracks, and restoration.

In 1837 Queen Victoria came to the throne, and with her came a new celebrity dog, her closest childhood companion, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel named ‘Darling Dashy’ Dash. Almost overnight, the popularity of Staffordshire poodles died as factories turned to modelling this more popular breed of dog, the spaniel. As the fashion for ‘Staffordshire Dogs’ took hold, other dogs, often with royal connections also appeared. Prince Albert’s favourite greyhound, Eos, was modelled seated and recumbent.

Despite the abrupt end in production of Staffordshire pottery poodles, throughout the 20th Century the popularity of the poodle as a breed and companion continued to rise. Celebrity owners include Katharine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Ellen Degeneres and Barbara Streisand. Even Sir Winston Churchill owned a poodle named Rufus.

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