NEWPORT, R.I. — The weather was perfect — for an antiques show. The light rain falling in this popular shoreline artsy community kept people away from the beach and caused them to look for alternative sources of enjoyment. What could be better than The Newport Antiques Show?
The show, managed by Diana Bittel, opened to the public on Thursday evening, July 25, for a gala preview party, a benefit for the Newport Historical Society and the Boys and Girls Club of Newport,. Once again, Newport gallery owner and resident William Vareika was the Presenting Sponsor of the posh event.
Forty-two dealers take part in the show, which ran through Sunday, July 28, and present a grand selection of merchandise that ranges from Eighteenth Century Americana to Midcentury Modern. As always, the selection of artworks around the floor is breathtaking, as are the displays of sensuous jewels.
Gary Sergeant, Woodbury, Conn., was set up at the entrance to the show, and his booth enticed buyers with a good selection of English and Continental furnishings. A Gillows “sofa backgammon” table in rosewood with Moroccan leather and game board flanked by astragal ends, $36,000, was getting attention from shoppers. A virtually identical example designed by Gillows for John Gladstone, Esq, the table appears in a drawing at the Westminster Archive and is dated 1813, according to the dealer. Also attracting attention was a colorful oil by George Bellows titled “The Tree” that was stickered at $475,000.
Newport-themed art was popular, with Roger King Fine Art, Newport, offering a stellar Benjamin Stillwell oil titled “Mt Hope Bay, R.I.” The pleasing image depicted a flock of sheep in a rock-strewn pasture with the bay behind them. The dealer also displayed “Sailing Off the Coast” by James Buttersworth, price on request. In a somewhat different vein, Leon Kroll’s oil on canvas “Mother and Child in Forest” was offered at $22,500. A small pleasing picture by Edward Banister was “Sakonnet Shore,” an oil depicting a small path leading to an inlet.
Newport art was also displayed at The Cooley Gallery, Old Lyme, Conn., where a large William Trost Richards seascape of waves breaking against rocks along the shoreline took center stage. Titled “Morning, Easton’s Point, Newport,” the painting was described by Jeffery Cooley as unusual in the fact that it was executed in a vertical style, something the artist routinely did in studies but “he rarely did so when working on such a large scale” painting.
Also displayed was a selection of trompe l’oeil paintings by John Yeager, including an exceptional oil on board titled “Homage to Buttersworth” that depicted a trio of “Buttersworth” sailing vessels, a coin, a canceled postcard and a caption torn from a publication. Yeager is currently featured at the Cooley Gallery with a good selection of his work on display.
Attracting attention on the outside wall of William Vareika’s stand was a “Study for the White House Portrait of President John F. Kennedy” by Aaron Shikler. The charcoal and chalk portrait executed on handmade paper in 1970 was stunning and an important piece of American history. It carried a price tag of $250,000. Continuing with the presidential theme, two carved marble busts of George Washington were offered, with one by Thomas Crawford, circa 1850, priced at $165,000; the other, by Italian artist Raimondo Trentanove, was $50,000.
Last year the Newport dealer filled the interior wall of the stand with two major John La Farge paintings; this year he outdid himself by presenting the monumental oil “Coast of Newport” by Martin Johnson Heade. Considered one of America’s premier Luminist painters, Heade combined his talents from America’s Romantic period to create a masterpiece.
Executed in 1874, the painting depicted a sailing vessel against at sunrise with a broad band of pinky clouds stretching across the canvas where the water met the skyline. Light waves rippling across the sandy beach set the shadowy scene. The mood of the painting changed dramatically throughout the evening as Vareika lowered and raised the intensity of the lighting, creating a scene that ran the gamut from somber to sheer excitement. The Heade was the most expensive item we saw on the floor, priced at $3.5 million. Two John La Farge oils were offered, smaller ones, with “Water lilies in a White Bowl” marked $350,000 and “Tulips and Hyacinths” $375,000.
Works by John James Audubon were featured at Arader Galleries, Philadelphia, including several large folio aquatint engravings. “Purple Heron,” plate CCLVI from Birds of America, measured 38½ by 25½ inches and was hand colored and printed by Robert Havell, circa 1827–183. It was priced at $120,00, while “Common Swan,” an engraved, colored and printed version from 1837, also published in Birds of America, was $155,000.
A bright and colorful selection of material was offered at Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge, White Plains, N.Y., ranging from Eighteenth Century ceramics to colorful Twentieth Century Modern works. A set of brightly glazed pinwheel plates by Gio Ponte were attracting attention from the crowd, as was a selection of plates by Piero Fornasetti that ranged from a series of 12 Eve plates to a set of Astrolabe plates decorated with a celestial globe and sold with the original malachite papered box. Also offered was a desirable Ralph Cahoon oil titled “Mermaid Circus” that was priced $32,000.
Sales seemed to be on an upswing during the evening hours of preview, with several dealers applying sold tags to items in their stands. Village Braider Antiques marked some statuary pieces sold and Americana dealer Roberto Freitas reported several items sold and on hold.
“This is it,” proclaimed Alan Stone, Hill-Stone, Inc, New York City, while holding a superb example of Albrecht Durer’s engraving from 1513, “Knight, Death and The Devil.” The dealer called it a “masterpiece in European printmaking history,” and surmised that it would be the finest example of the print that he would ever have the opportunity to handle. The rare print, priced at $225,000, was marked with collections that it had been a part of, including Pierre Mariette in 1678 and the British Museum in 1895.
Other prime prints in the stand included a Rembrandt van Rijn etching and drypoint titled “Abraham entertaining the Angels” from 1656 at $110,000, and a Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo ink drawing titled “A Centaur Abducting a Woman” that was similarly priced.
Imperial Fine Books, New York City, branched out with the offering of a stellar selection of Orientalia. Included was a garniture of five famille verte pieces decorated with willow trees and birds from the Qianlong period, as well as a pair of famille verte vases from the Kangxi period. A massive Rose Medallion center bowl that measured nearly 3 feet in diameter was also featured.
An English giltwood armchair, circa 1765, took center stage at Patrick Bavasi, New York City. The rare cabriole leg chair with a finely carved frame exhibiting trailing bellflowers, C-scroll and acanthus decoration was priced $62,500. A French commode, circa 1760, was $22,500, a Continental Art Nouveau parcel-gilt mirror, $8,800, and a Seventeenth Century Bouttats School painting of “Orpheus Charming the Animals” was marked $68,000.
Special events taking place in conjunction with the show were once again highly anticipated by the crowd. A special loan exhibit presented by Historic New England was titled “Windows of the Past,” with items such as a French marble and ormolu mantel clock from the Barrett House in New Ipswich, N.H., silhouettes and ceramics from Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House in Gloucester, Mass., and vivid glassware from the Hamilton House in South Berwick, Maine.
A series of lectures proved popular with those attending the show. On Friday, art consultant Jessica Hagen discussed how to blend antiques and modern furnishings together to create pleasing room settings. “Materials Memories: Jewelry from the Collection of Historic New England” was presented on Saturday by Historic New England associate curator Laura Johnson and “Painted Rooms of Newport County: Colonial & Federal” was a well-attended event given by author Ann Eckert Brown on Sunday.