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Local 19th century artist and ‘Foo Dogs’

By   /   February 12, 2013  /   Be the first to comment

This painting by Samuel Roscoe Chaffee is from the Barrington Preservation Society Museum.

This painting by Samuel Roscoe Chaffee is from the Barrington Preservation Society Museum.

It is always fun when I come across artwork from a local artist whose work displays familiar views of the East Bay.

Karen WatermanI have worked with several Samuel Roscoe Chaffee pieces and the one pictured here is from the Barrington Preservation Society Museum. Chaffee was a landscape painter, mostly in watercolors and most popular in the late 1890s. A member of the Providence Art Club, he’s a relative of Sen. John Chafee who reportedly had a number of his works.

Chaffee’s medium was mostly watercolors and some pastels. His works are primarily landscapes, many of which were near where he lived (Swansea, Barrington and Seekonk). Familiar are the marshes which extend out of Hundred Acre Cove in Barrington. The picture here depicts a member of the Kinnicutt family with the Barrington River in the background. It is lovely in its original frame.

While the market demand for his work is not high at this time, his work offers us a snapshot of what our area looked like and is a reminder of our area’s rich history.

Foo Dog

Q. Above is a picture of a hand-carved wooden Foo Dog. I have a matching one that faces the opposite way. They were brought over from Okinawa several years ago (30 years?). I don’t know if they are of value or to be used as a conversation piece.

This hand-carved ‘Foo Dog’ was brought to America from Okinawa, Japan.

This hand-carved ‘Foo Dog’ was brought to America from Okinawa, Japan.

A. “Foo Dogs” or “Guardian Lions” are ancient sacred dogs which guarded palaces, temples, tombs and usually homes of the wealthy. Lions are sacred in the Buddhist religion and the Chinese word for Buddha is “Fo” or “Fu,” which explains the name. As companions of Buddha, Foo Dogs were known as protectors and more broadly as defenders of law. They supposedly emanate good energy and are prominent in Feng shui design.

Foo Dogs are usually sold as a male/female pair. The male dog is holding a sphere symbolizing earth and the female holds a cub. Yours appears to be made of rosewood or padouk, an Asian wood used for furniture and decorative arts. Some Foo Dogs command high prices due to age and the materials used. While these are not worth significant value, you now have additional facts to use them as a “conversation piece.”

Karen Waterman is an antique furniture and decorative arts appraiser in the East Bay area and will answer as many questions about your own “hidden treasures” as possible. By sending a letter or e-mail with a question, you give full permission for use in the column. Names, addresses or e-mail will not be published and photos will be returned if requested. Send e-mails (digital photos are encouraged) to trashortreasure@ymail.com. Send snail mail to East Bay Newspapers, Att. Karen Waterman, P.O. Box 90, Bristol, RI 02809.

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