An Elegant Tradition Continues At Birchwood Manor Antiques Show

WHIPPANY, N.J. — A 34-year tradition of offering a diverse exhibition and sale of antiques and fine art continued at Birchwood Manor on July 27–28 as 80 antiques and vintage dealers showcased their collections in this JMK Shows-managed event that is staged here twice a year.

In what may have been a respite from the sultry season of outdoor shows, the elegant Georgian mansion, thankfully air-conditioned, provided an opulent backdrop of luxurious carpeted ballrooms with massive overhead crystal chandeliers, transformed into a fitting display case for the antiques and fine art that ranged from Nineteenth–Twentieth Century American and European paintings to booths full of silver, jewelry, porcelain, art pottery, vintage collectibles and even some furniture.

“It was a good show for buying, although attendance was lighter than we would have liked,” said show manager Allison Kohler. “One of our longtime dealers that have been showing here probably 60 or 70 times reported that it was their best show ever.” Kohler said the most reliable gauge of how well dealers did is the sign-up list for next July’s show, and many of those were inked by the weekend’s close.

The show comprises many of Kohler’s loyal cadre of dealers, several of whom have done the show for years. There were some fresh faces, as well, though, including Saddle River Gallery of Upper Saddle River, N.J., which specializes in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century French post-Impressionist and Modern art, and Frank’s Specialties of Minneapolis, Minn., which presented a booth filled with Twentieth Century decorative arts and collectibles.

A special treat for many of the longtime dealers was the presence of Allison’s dad, Jesse Kohler, who with his wife Rona established JMK in 1972 and brought what was then known as the Meadowlands Show to Birchwood Manor in 1979. Allison recalls that as a young girl helping out her parents at this show she hoisted many a ladies mink onto coat racks at the entrance as showgoers arrived.

There are a good number of jewelry dealers assembled here. One such dealer, Jamie Shenkman of Jamie’s Antiques, Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., offered a choice selection, including some signed Miriam Haskell necklaces, a set by Hattie Carnegie, Robert and Vendome. Shenkman does both the summer and winter editions, citing a good customer base.

Anita Taub, New York City, was showing an unusual small bracelet from the 1930s. Usually such pieces are silver with a gold wash, she explained, but here the bracelet was made of 14K gold and inset with five lozenges of oval-carved jade. It was probably Chinese, she said. Also available was a pair of Georg Jensen simple clip-on earrings with a Modernist design and exquisite diamonds, probably from the 1950s.

Nearby, Anita and Al De Old of Verona, N.J., had a diverse offering of antique and vintage jewelry gathered over 34 years of collecting, including a veritable forest of glittering hatpins dating from the 1860s to mid-1920s. For their business, A Touch of Glass, the Birchwood Manor show was — before the recession — their best show for some 25 years, they reported.

First-time exhibitor Frank’s Specialties featured among a booth full of Twentieth Century material the Bee Girl, a figure of composite material whose statuesque form proffered a tray that held several small bottles of perfume. The dealer said the piece was most likely made circa 1960s–70s as a store display for Frederick’s of San Francisco, and is the only one he has ever seen, so it may have been a bespoke commission.

Several fine art dealers were on hand, including Steve and Doris McKell of Narragansett, R.I. The McKells, who do business as Tradewinds Fine Art, offer everything from marine paintings to Hudson River views, American Impressionist works, Modernist still lifes, traditional landscapes and more. Apropos of the season, one of the works in their booth enjoying its first time out at a show was “Summer Bather” by Arnold Wood (1930–1993), a Canadian artist whose strong female form of a seaside bather was on view here. A calm boat scene by Twentieth Century American artist Frank Judge was another highlight.

Gail Grassano of Montville, N.J., showcased her talent for pairing vintage clothing and accessories with estate and costume jewelry by creating a fetching booth magnet manikin. A Victorian top, beaded underpinning, pieces of jewelry, such as brooches and mourning pins, a lorgnette and other items made for an antique fashion statement. She also had brought new life to a unique French curved glass display case that fit perfectly into her corner space.

A small selection of antiquarian books collected by lifelong anglophile Marshall Hunt of West Orange, N.J., was on view in the booth of John Tyler’s Colophon Books, Layton, N.J.. Hunt had spent a lifetime collecting British antiquarian books, many of them small bibles, and royal coronation memorabilia. Tyler said that half of Hunt’s huge collection is going to the Newark School of Theology.

Gardner Burke, Washington, D.C., specializes in French, European and American porcelain from the late Nineteenth–early Twentieth Centuries. Showing primarily hand painted porcelains, a standout here among the Limoges, Belleek and Picard was a Limoges grape motif punch bowl and eight cups, circa 1890.

Any Manhattan enthusiast would enjoy an interesting item shown by Al Conti, co-owner of Vintage Matters, Mount Bethel. Penn. On offer was a historical cookie tin from the late 1930s, the top featuring an “aeroplane” view of Manhattan Island and the four sides depicting streetscapes of notable landmarks and buildings.

Philip Chasen of Oyster Bay, N.Y., brought American and French Art Nouveau and Art Deco glass and lamps, including works by Daum Nancy, Galle and Tiffany Studios. Two Tiffany Lily lamps, a linenfold example and a rare Nautilus shell table lamp with base designed by Louis A. Gudebrod were highlights.

Marvin Baer, and his son Matthew, the Ivory Tower, specialists in Oriental antiques, brought a good representation of Satsuma, Imari, other Japanese exports and Asian antiques. In business for 35 years, Marvin has exhibited at Birchwood since its inception.

Today, Birchwood Manor is not known as a show featuring much furniture, although in years past additional ballrooms were chockfull of such displays. White Orchid Antiques, Media, Penn., did not disappoint brown wood enthusiasts, and Flo ‘N’ Time Antiques, Virginia Beach, Va., showcased several choice pieces. including a Chinese carved camphor wood bride’s chest, circa 1890, a nice French sofa, some Adams chairs with mother of pearl inlay decoration, a ladies worktable, circa 1880, and a wonderful pair of lingerie chests, circa 1935-40, all original with bronze ormolu and marble tops.

Next up for JMK Shows is the Morristown Armory show set for October 26–27. For information, 973-927-2794 or www.jmkshows.com.

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