2008-01-23 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets . . .
Inscribed-"Blencathra Bell Boy (Thomas) / I belong to the Duke of Windsor"- it's not your typical dog tag; nor is it your typical price tag. This metal ID hangs from 1 of 5 leather collars that once adorned Pugs owned by the British royal couple. Bonhams, in Manhattan, expects the lot to fetch up to $3,000 during The Dog Sale, the gallery's 26th annual auction Feb. 12 at 10 a.m. during the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. The Windsor collars are part of a treasure trove of 250-plus pieces of dog-related paintings (many by sought- after artists like Emms and Wardle) and other objets d'art, including nearly 100 antique collars, offered at the 595 Madison Avenue sale room. Among the highlights is an oil of a resting Collie and Terrier titled "Cosy Spot" by Wright Barker (1863-1941). It's expected to bring more than $50,000.
Last week the Metropolitan Dog Club (MDC) hosted a lecture on "Investing in Dog Art" at Bonhams. Charlotte Reed, the club's president, stressed the MDC must "provide community service and cultural events for dog lovers that celebrate the history of our breeds as seen through the arts". Dog art serves many purposes- it reminds us of the original jobs our dogs were bred for- be it hunting, guarding or confidante; chronicles canine relationships with their favorite humans; and captures country lifestyles in different eras.
News flash: Happy to report that MDC's proceeds from the Bonhams lecture, as well as the upcoming Bonhams Barkfest preview brunch, benefit the newly formed American Kennel Club (AKC) Humane Fund which will promote all my "pet projects": responsible dog ownership, shelter outreach, and breed rescue clubs.
Alan Fausel, Bonhams vice president and director of fine art, described this year's collection and spoke about the problems investing in dog art. Fausel who also teaches at NYU and gives expert appraisals on the Antiques Road Show, warned that selling vintage canine paintings may not be the novice's best financial bet because of high capital gains taxes, fragility, and changing tastes of dog fanciers. If you're a (wealthy) investor striving to make a profit, buy the best; buy the signed. Realistically, you should acquire dog art because you love it.
Fausel added that it used to be difficult to sell a painting that depicted a dog with a cat, or a mixed breed but there is less resistance now. Breed popularity changes. Old breeds like English White Terriers or Red Setters don't exist any more so they appeal to few, while there has been a resurgence of interest in Cavalier King Charles and French Bulldog paintings. Labrador Retriever (AKC breed #1) paintings
are scarce so they are snatched up quickly. For some unknown reason, Collie and German Shepherd works are harder to sell. He urges clients to buy "known sitters"- meaning champion or well-known dogs.
Sporting dog pictures, our English heritage in action, are always popular but Fausel advises buyers to become cognizant of the trends. We are farther removed from our food sources. Most of us are no longer farmers or hunters. Today's
gentile society is appalled by blood
sports so coursing and shooting scenes that show the kill are not in demand. Too bad they aren't digitals, for "photo shopping" an old oil to remove a dead rabbit or bloody bird could actually increase the value.
Besides the Windsor collars, Bonhams boasts an impressive collar collection being sold individually. Most are decorative metal, the oldest a 16th German spiked iron worn to protect the throat of a dog from wolves while guarding the flock. Leather collars include a 19th C. double coursing slip that would release two Greyhounds at once and WWII message carrying collars for American war dogs to sneak communications through enemy lines.
Finally Bonhams will be offering select, unique pieces from a personal collection of 1,900 items amassed over 50 years. There are rare samples of early photography- tintypes of dogs. Fausel said that dogs were difficult to pose alone because the technology of the time demanded a wait of 20-30 seconds. Some dogs appear sluggish since someone sneaky drizzled brandy into the water bowl. Other pups are so alert because the photographer undraped a nearby bird cage synchronized with his camera's flash.
Alas the House of Windsor collars are a bit over my budget, so I've set my sights on a 1930s curling iron that rests inside the mouth of a silver Bulldog. Please don't outbid me. To view the entire catalog for The Dog Sale, visit www.bonhams.com/us or call 212-644-9001.
•The special poster dog this week resembles the Egyptian god Anubis; thus the dog art of antiquity. "Poe" is not at a town shelter, but instead was rescued by the Pharaoh Hound Club of America (www.ph-club.org) from a hoarder in New England. He was kept outdoors along with many other sighthounds and exotic breeds. "Poe" short for "Pothinus" is a handsome, approx.2 year old neut. male, up to date on all vaccines. He is very sweet but somewhat sound sensitive, and not yet tested with cats or children. He is in need of a forever home; sighthound experience preferred. Contact 917-626-1374 or email@example.com.
•Brief list from Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: red Siberian Husky Cage 25; Pug/ Jack Russell Cage 27; singing older Husky mix cage 87; Malinois mix pup Cage 9; great torties-lobby.
Photos, courtesty of Bonhams