Monday, January 16, 2012

Violets for Darlington

I've never really been a fan of Staffordshire poodle figures.  Not much of one for spaniel figures, either.  I do have two Staffordshire hound figures that I like.  And, of course, we do collect figures of pugs, since we do so love and adore our darling little Pompey.

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

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


  1. Hello Reggie:
    We can safely say that we should not normally be attracted to poodles either in real life or in china, but we love your Staffordshire dog. It is absolutely charming and does, as you say, seem to have arrived with perfect timing to Darlington House.

    Wishing you and Boy a joyous and prosperous New Year!!

  2. I love your little poodle. I had the same problem last fall!

  3. The figure certainly has unusual charm--it's the colorful basket of flowers that does it. I especially like the woven texture of the green basket.

    I am partial to violets; during springtime in Cleveland the hillsides in the woods were often carpeted with violets, mostly purple, but also many yellow and white ones. Now there aren't so many, but violets always bring back memories of bright spring days.
    --Road to Parnassus

  4. Reggie-

    Madly charming post.
    I will only start to worry about you if you start a large collection of white poodles with violets.
    In the meantime, one witty little chap and the pretty basket is a delight.
    cheers and happy days

  5. It is clear dahhling why your dear Boy would have to have this very cute figurine...I would want it also, even though I do not collect figurines either!

  6. I knew that poem sounded familiar! The Ultra Lounge album entitled "Christmas Cocktails" has a hidden track of Renzo Cesana performing "Violets for Your Furs".

  7. The basket of violets does it for me! I think it's adorable when dogs in real life carry around their toys. I love violets. A dog carrying a basket of violets is wonderful!

  8. That small, intense hit of color in the little basket--like a violet bouillon cube! An irresistible figurine, definitely, and how pretty it will be anywhere near your beautiful amethyst goblets.


  9. Wouldn't a mixed herd of Staffordshire sheep and poodles be charming?
    xox Camilla

  10. From Staffordshire to Sinatra! That is what I call a brilliant trajectory,
    Reggie. And by the way, I too grew up on that Sinatra album belonging
    to my father and in fact absconded with it when I moved into my
    first apartment. Matt Dennis is a frequently overlooked composer and his
    own rendition of Violets for Your Furs is excellent in its own right.


Please do comment! I welcome and encourage them, and enjoy the dialogue.

Related Posts with Thumbnails