Two American World War II leather messenger carrying collars
each with oil skin paper, each stamped 'US/JQMD/1944/EMS', diameter of each 8 in. (20.4 cm.)
PUTTING ON THE STYLE
Dogs have been shown wearing collars since earliest times. Friezes from Ancient Egypt depict the royal hounds of the Pharaohs wearing collars of what appear to be plaited papyrus. Sculptures and carvings from Assyria show similar hounds. A mosaic from the House of the Poet at Pompeii depicts a Roman watchdog wearing a spiked collar with a chain attached. Such collars have been popular throughout Europe over many centuries and, in fact, are still being made today is some remote parts of Turkey and other countries.
Artists throughout the ages have chronicled the evolution and styles of collars worn, in most cases, by the privileged dogs of the privileged classes. One of the most graphic of these is the painting by David Klocker Ehrenstrahl (1628-1698) of Queen Hedvig Eleonoras Greyhounds and Toy Spaniels shown wearing elaborate collars, each bearing the Queens initials.
Some of these elaborate collars served a dual function as can be clearly seen in the iconic picture by Sir Edwin Landseer R.A. (1802-1837) that he painted in 1820 when he was just eighteen. Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveller Lost in the Snow shows the dog that is raising the alarm wearing a substantial collar with bells attached for function and large metal appliqués of animals for decoration. The Dog Market by Abraham Hondius (c.1638-1695) is particularly interesting for the array of collars, both functional and decorative, that are displayed for sale at the front of the picture.
King Henry VIIIs inventories list many precious collars: toe Greyhoundes collars of crimsun velvette and cloth of gold two other collars with the Kinges armes a collar of white velvette, embrawdered with perles, the swilvels of silver.
One of the earliest collectors of dog collars is said to have been Phillip II of Spain. In an inventory of some of his possessions is listed a dog collar which had once been in the possession of Philippe le Hardi, Duke of Burgundy (1342-1404). It is described as being enriched with plates of silver-gilt with the Dukes arms and motto and embroidered with pearls.
The collection of approximately 100 lots offered at Bonhams, New York was put together over a number of years and is one of the worlds largest private collections ever assembled and the largest in the United States. Spanning some 400 years from the 16th century to the mid 20th century, the collection represents the entire range, from the entirely functional to the beautifully ornate.
The earliest is a German iron collar with protective spikes (lot 7376201-18), so designed to prevent the wearers throat from attack by wolves and other wild animals whilst hunting or guarding flocks. Variations on this theme have been in use throughout Europe from the early Middle Ages right up to the present day. From the 20th century are two American World War II leather messenger carrying collars (lot 7376201-1) of simple design with a pouch to carry a written message across enemy lines and are a poignant reminder of the loyalty and devotion of mans best friend, even under extreme conditions.
Equally simplistic in design, highly functional and a design that has never been improved upon is a British late 19th/early 20th century coursing slip (lot 7376201-3) for simultaneously slipping two Greyhounds. Sport with Greyhounds is amongst the oldest and silver commemorative collars were an integral part of coursing from the early 19th century. The George III leather lined silver collar inscribed Bowers Coursing Meeting, 1819 (lot 7376201-11) commemorates one of these popular events.
Silver collars were made in many sizes to fit a variety of breeds and they were often elaborately engraved and embossed, displaying fine and detailed work by the best silversmiths of the time, the Gorham sterling floral decorated collar (lot 7376201-30) being a classic example.
Some collars were designed specifically for a breed and the French early 20th century red leather and metal studded French Bulldog collar with badger hair trim (lot 7376201-4) is one. Its design went beyond just being decorative as the ends of the hair irritated the ears thus encouraging the dog to hold them erect, a desirable characteristic of the then newly developed breed favoured by European society.
Some of the most desirable collars were made of a combination of metals and leathers with lead rings and fastening devices as ornate as they were functional, displaying the ingenuity and skill of the craftsmen who made them. The wearers of lot 7376201-17, a Victorian lavishly engraved silvered metal and leather collar in the Baroque taste, lot 7376201-12, a William IV silver and leather collar with original padlock and lot 7376201-27, a Victorian brass and leather collar with brass appliqués would turn the heads of any passing pooch.
We would like to thank Nick Waters, freelance writer and canine art historian, for his kind assistance in preparing this article.