As the sun began to set over the island of Nantucket on the evening of Thursday, August 2, one of the largest crowds in memory flowed among the handsome and elaborate displays during the preview party for the August Antiques Show, a benefit for the Nantucket Historical Association. A dapper and pleasantly mixed crowd was on hand; some there purely to be seen at the island’s most prestigious social event of the year, while others were there first and foremost to shop the show.
The show is widely supported by islanders, summer residents and vacationers with more than 300 donors and benefactors making contributions to ensure its success. Corporate underwriters are also plentiful and include Seaman Schepps, Wayne Pratt Inc, Northeast Auctions and The Fireman’s Fund. Ralph Lauren is also on board, creating the Compass Rose line of clothing from which all proceeds benefit the Nantucket Historical Association and its efforts to restore the local landmark Gardiner’s Corner Compass Rose mural.
As the first of the patrons made their way through the expansive show at 6 pm, sales were recorded in many of the booths, and as the evening wore on, interest in many of the items on display blossomed. An Antiques Council event featuring nearly 40 dealers, the show was competently managed again this year by Diana Bittel.
The August show is always impressive with a high powered list of dealers offering an exclusive variety of antiques that range from a varied assortment of fine art often priced in the six- and seven-figure range to a selection of nautical antiques that always prove to be popular additions to the local homes. Not unlike previous years, dealers reported strong interest in a wide variety of materials, including furniture, garden ornaments, folk art, Nantucket baskets and ceramics.
This show continues to evolve with a well thought out floor plan keeping activity and energies high among attendees. Using three floors of the school and a large tent that houses an additional ten dealers, the tight confines of the building are used to an advantage.
There were several new faces in the show this year, some appearing as the result of dealers dropping from the roster, others from unfortunate events. One dealer that was sorely missed from the show was Wayne Pratt, one of the show’s mainstays and an avid supporter since its inception. Pratt passed away on July 25, just a week prior to the event. Wayne Pratt Inc, announced that it had temporally suspended its show schedule until further notice and it was unclear as to whether or not the firm will return to the August show in 2008.
One gallery that desperately wanted to display in the August show was the London firm of Sampson and Horne; the gallery, however, was only able to set up for an abbreviated portion of the show †missing the entire preview party. The door to the room in which the dealers were to be set up was closed as the preview began, a sign informed clients that their shipment had been delayed. “Flying in on Friday,” proclaimed the notice, which continued with a request to “Please come back to see their beautiful things.”
Manhattan fine art gallery Hirschl & Adler was new to the show this year and a stellar assortment of paintings was presented. Featured on the exterior wall of its stand was a pair of Ammi Phillips portraits, circa 1820, of John and Blithia Haskell, that was priced at $245,000.
Next door was the booth of Jeff Cooley, Old Lyme, Conn., and among his selections was an obvious, although uncharacteristic, offering of an animated Ralph Cahoon oil on Masonite titled “The Goose Hunt,” $45,000. Certainly among the most sought-after of artists in the Nantucket region, the scene depicted a marsh scene with two hunters in a pole boat attentively observing a mermaid delivering their felled goose. More traditional fare for the dealer included a Milton Avery oil on board titled “Three Cows,” a William Robinson scene titled “The First of June” and, once again in keeping with the Nantucket theme, a stunning William Trost Richards painting titled “Nantucket.”
Among the highlights of the booth of Hyland Granby was a carved and painted ship’s sternboard in the form of a spread-winged eagle. Attributed to carver J. Nabor, New Orleans, circa 1870, the weathered eagle, retaining traces of the original paint, had an American shield clutched in its talons.
Steve O’Brien Jr was at the show with a stellar selection of decoys and sporting art that was highlighted by an Ogden Pleissner watercolor titled “Malveira Farm, Portugal,” $45,000. Another featured work on display was an Aiden Lassell Ripley watercolor, “Still Life with Grouse” that was stickered at $21,000. O’Brien plans to publish a comprehensive book on the artist that will be released in conjunction with the Aiden Lassell Ripley exhibition scheduled at the Cape Cod Museum of Art in August 2008.
Decoys were also offered in the stand, with a rare Robert Elliston preening mallard hen attracting a great deal of interest. A Gus Wilson black duck was an early seller as the decoy was snapped up by a buyer during preview.
The Boston dealer also offered a rare nest of Nantucket baskets, circa 1870, attributed to Captain James Wyer, that ranged from the outer basket measuring 12 inches in diameter to the smallest in the nest at 5 inches wide.
A set of six folk art whirligigs by Chicago maker Albert Ferinand Beversdorf were sold from the booth of Manchester Center, Vt., dealers Carlson and Stevenson shortly after the show opened for preview. The vibrantly painted pieces featured bird carvings and the tail ends of the gigs used shield and tulip form surfaces to catch the wind.
Running Battle Antiques, Newagen, Maine, started the show off with several sales, including a set of eight English oak ladder back chairs, circa 1790, that sold within minutes of the show opening. A Nineteenth Century fruitwood farm table, nearly 8 feet in length, had a hold placed on it moments later and an oak Welsh dresser, circa 1750, was also attracting attention. Artwork offered included a rare example of a Japanese Trade ship’s portrait by O-Chi-Yai depicting the British built Firey Cross in Nagasaki Harbor. Dealer Hamilton Meserve commented that while there are numerous China Trade ships’ portraits on the market today, the Japanese examples are “few and far between.”
Nantucket dealer John Sylvia brought a nice selection of marine paintings as well, including a portrait of the paddle wheeler “Larchmont” by Antonio Jacobsen, and a nice oil by Jack Gray titled “The Narrows, New York Harbor.” Among opening night sales for Sylvia was a vibrantly paint decorated pencil box by Tony Sarg, circa 1925.
Garden ornaments were selling quite well, with Finnegan Gallery, Chicago, reporting the sale of a large carved stone eagle during preview. A set of three terra cotta urns with scrolled handles and leaf decorated bodies were also getting looks from clients.
While there are limitless reasons to want to visit Nantucket Island in August, the Nantucket Historical Association’s show should certainly appear near the top of the list. When combined with three auctions and two shows running concurrently on both the island and Cape Cod †attending this prestigious event is a no-brainer.