21 December 2006

Manhattan Chien

We’re always reading in Nice-Matin about the Russian invasion of the Côte d’Azur. Russians have bought up many of the beautiful Belle Époque properties along the coast and have doubtless helped make a few real estate agents very rich. Everyone knows about the Russian billionaire with the unpronounceable name who owns Chelsea Football Club. He’s le propriétaire of the Chateau de la Croe at Cap d’Antibes, the former home of the Duke of Windsor who bought it for Wallace Simpson when he gave up the British crown for her.

Well, it so happens that not long ago I got to know of a rather special Russian émigré myself. Etienne was born in St. Petersburg, Russia to an aristocratic family but with roots going way back to his original French heritage. Etienne is a French Bulldog, who lives, not in the south of France but in New York where he’s very much the dapper young dog about town, enjoying all the good things Manhattan has to offer and playing football with his friends in the park.

Etienne, however, is more than just a bouledogue français living in New York – he's an artist’s muse. An 'artist's muse' brings to mind some voluptuous woman who has inspired an artist to heights of artistic expression. Almost nobody thinks of dogs, yet many artists' dogs have been their 'muse.' Picasso had his dachshund, Lump, who was born in Germany where his name means Rascal. Lump appears in 15 of Picasso’s multiple reinterpretations of Velázquez's masterpiece "Las Meninas.” David Hockney loves to paint his dachshunds. And of course there is William Wegman and his Weimaraners. And now there is Etienne.

Etienne, known as Eti, has a beautiful blog dedicated to him called, naturally enough, Manhattan Chien. As you’ll see, his owner, dear pack leader (PL), is a talented graphic artist who uses 40 layers of colours and textures for his paintings. I bought a framed print of Eti and it’s on the wall to the left of me as I type. On Eti's website you can read about his beginnings in Russia, there are great resources on the breed and on holistic feeding, you can watch many fascinating videos, and in the section called Manhattan Muse you can read what a rather special canine muse does all day.

But I didn't know of Manhattan Chien, until one day, thanks to the wizardry of the Internet, I found that PL had written about Pension Milou and the story of Milou's bench. It was called All the Leaves are Brown and the Sky is Gray. And how had PL found this blog? Simple - he found it because I'd written about a French bulldog in The Day Lou was Stolen.

PL and I started a correspondence. At the time, this blog’s title was shown in a simple header with a teal border and I happened to write one day that it would be nice to show a postcard, perhaps jutting out of one corner of the border. The next morning, what should arrive in my mailbox but a beautiful graphic of an old postcard – and a little later, stamps and postmarks to go along with it. No ordinary stamps, mind you, but a Pension Milou stamp depicting a spaniel and another stamp showing two champion Old English Sheepdogs I’d bred in a former life. Take a look at the top of this page.

I love New York. I spent time there in my twenties and last year I stayed for four or five days in TriBeCa, en route to the Centennial Show of the Old English Sheepdog Club of America. Who knows if one day I won’t be walking in Central Park and see, in the distance, a black masked red fawn French Bulldog who’ll come running when I call out - ‘Eti, Eti, Eti…’

Eti, on my study wall

Update on Lynda, the Tibetan spaniel, click here and scroll down page


Anonymous said...

You know normally I'm not terribly enthusiastic about French bulldogs but you've converted me in the space of a post.
i love that story of Etienne who does, indeed, look very special and his picture's amazing.
Well done, Jilly.

Anonymous said...

I need to know why you were "en route to the Centennial Show of the Old English Sheepdog Club of America."

Did you make it to the show?

Jilly said...

Yes to the previous comment. The OESCA show was held in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, so 4 or 5 days were spent in NYC beforehand.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for this post, we love reading your blog and are delighted that we have become friends. We look forward to that walk in Central park with you.

Eti & PL

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