|A sweet little poodle, carrying a basket of violets|
Staffordshire, England, ca. 1850
Photograph by Boy Fenwick
The other day, when out and about shopping in the nearby town to Darlington, Boy came across a diminutive Staffordshire figure of a very coiffed poodle carrying a green basket of violets in its mouth. Despite Boy's best intentions, he fell in love with it. "I can't believe I like this little poodle, as I usually can't stand this sort of thing. But I must have it!" he said, looking at me to confirm whether I agreed with him or thought he had lost his mind. And I did agree with him—it was charming—and I said that I thought it would be a delightful addition to our collection of Staffordshire figures at Darlington House.
|King Charles II of England (1630-1680)|
Painted by Sir Peter Lely, 1670
National Maritime Museum, London
We date the figure to the 1850s because—among other reasons—the cut of the poodle's coat is in a style popular at the time, inspired by the wigs worn during the reign of Charles II of England. Also, the Roccoco Revival molding around the figure's base led us to conclude it was made in the mid-1800s rather than later.
|Revue Horticole, ca. 1800s|
Image courtesy of encore-editions.com
References to violets as symbols of rebirth and love have appeared in verse dating back to the ancient East and to the Classical world and have persisted in art and song ever since. One of my favorite popular references to violets is "Violets for Your Furs," a hit song popularized by Frank Sinatra in the early 1950s. It was indelibly etched on my childhood brain by my father, who played the LP album upon which it appeared, Songs for Young Lovers, often enough that its grooves practically wore out.
|The cover of my father's favorite Sinatra album|
According to the American Violet Society, violets are "symbolic of the awakening year, earth's renewal, hope, and the simple joys and sorrows of love." Carried in the basket by the adorable little poodle that Boy had to have, they are a fitting and welcome offering at Darlington House this bitterly cold January long weekend.
It was winter in Manhattan, falling snow flakes filled the air,
The streets were covered with a film of ice,
But a little simple magic that I learned about somewhere,
Changed the weather all around, just within a thrice.
I bought you violets for your furs and it was spring for a while, remember?
I bought you violets for your furs and there was April in that December.
The snow drifted down on the flowers, and melted where it lay.
The snow looked like dew on the blossoms as on a summer's day.
I bought you violets for your furs and there was blue in the wintry sky,
You pinned my violets to your furs and gave a lift to the crowds passing by,
You smiled at me so sweetly, since then one thought occurs,
That we fell in love completely, the day I bought you violets for your furs.
— "Violets for Your Furs" by Tom Adair and Matt Dennis, 1941