Portrait of a French Bulldog
European School, probably Austrian ca, 1890
Cast bronze with silver plating
4 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches
This highly naturalistic bronze and silver casting was undoubtedly executed as an actual portrait of a beloved family pet.
The French Bulldog originated in England and was created to be a toy-size version of the Bulldog. The breed was quite popular among lace workers in the city of Nottingham and when many lace workers immigrated to France for better opportunities, they naturally brought their little bulldogs with them.
When blood sports were outlawed in England in 1835, English Bulldogs were then “unemployed” though they began to emerge as companion dogs starting around 1800. Those dogs were bred with ratting terriers from the English slums and as well as Pugs to reduce their size. The toy size became very popular among the lace workers in Nottingham because these docile and loyal pooches would warm the workers’ laps by day and rid the workshops of rats by night.
When the mechanization of lace production during the Industrial Revolution displaced garment workers from Nottingham to Normandy, France. Those workers brought their dogs with them introducing the Toy Bulldogs which became instantly popular throughout France. Breeders in England began sending over Bulldogs that they felt were too small or had faults such as ears that stood up (“erect bat ears).”
The small Bulldog type gradually came to be seen as its own breed and received the name “Bouledogue Francais.” The dogs were highly fashionable status symbols and sought out by Parisian society ladies as prostitutes alike as well artists, writers, fashion designers.
Though Americans had been importing French Bulldogs for a while, it wasn’t until 1885 that a breeding program was initiated. The dogs remained in vogue during the early 20th century for high society with dogs costing upwards of $3000. Then as of today, it was one of the most popular dogs at the beginning of the last century. In 1912 the name was changed from Bouledogue Francais to French Bulldog.
Noted owners of “Frenchies” included The Rockefellers and J.P. Morgans, Toulouse-Lautrec, Edgar Degas, Yves Saint Laurent, etc. So elite was the French Bulldog that one named Gamin de Pycombe was onboard the Titanic.