We cannot think of a selling event that makes more effective use of its venue than the Antiques Dealers Association (ADA) Historic Deerfield Antiques Show, set on the campus of Historic Deerfield and Deerfield Academy against the backdrop of the red and crimson-flecked Pocumtuck Range in leaf season.
If ever there was a place to see early New England art, architecture and design in use, as it was meant to be used, it is here, in Historic Deerfield’s period houses and taverns and amid the bustle of humanity that makes Deerfield a living place with its feet planted several centuries ago.
The intoxicating atmospherics, along with a whispered suggestion from outgoing ADA President John Keith Russell, convinced the editors of Martha Stewart Living to devote eight pages of its October issue to Historic Deerfield and its antiques show, presented over Columbus Day weekend, October 9‱0. The coverage, along with the ADA’s collaboration with public television station affiliate WGBY, plus other savvy promotional initiatives, contributed to a surge in opening-day attendance.
“By 11:15 am, the two large parking lots were filled,” said Russell, who in January relinquishes his presidency to Judith Livingston Loto, the dealer in antiquarian books. New ADA board members are Jeff Noordsy and Scott Chalfant. As reported in Antiques and The Arts Weekly , ADA leadership announced October 9 that its 2011 Award of Merit will go to Morrison H. Heckscher, chairman of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s American Wing, on April 9.
The show’s great look and smooth logistics are thanks to manager Karen DiSaia. “It was a perfect weekend. We felt the gate was up and there was a real spirit of generosity on the floor,” said the Old Lyme, Conn., dealer in Oriental rugs. Several new exhibitors added sparkle.
“We’re thrilled to be here,” said Christine Hanauer of Hanauer & Seidman Antiques, Colchester, Conn., specialists in American country furniture and folk art who stepped in at the last moment for Jan Whitlock. Also new to the show, though hardly new to collectors, were Fiske & Freeman, Newsom & Berdan Antiques, Hilary and Paulette Nolan and Lucinda and Michael Seward. Raccoon Creek Antiques returned after an absence.
Recognizing opportunity, Historic Deerfield brings collector groups from around the country to the event. The visitors soak up the ambience and sample all that the museum has to offer, including Saturday evening’s sold-out Tavern Night.
“This year’s group was from Austin, Texas. They bought all over the floor,” said DiSaia.
At Spencer Marks, Ltd, a member of the group acquired a Karl Leinonen Boston Arts and Crafts sterling silver tea and coffee service. The Southampton, Mass., dealers also sold a pair of candelabra and matching candlesticks by Matthew Bolton of Birmingham, circa 1820, to Deerfield Academy parents visiting from California.
“Selling wood has been a curse, but we’re scrambling again for inventory,” said Kansas dealer Jennifer Fuehr of American Spirit Antiques, whose husband, Ted, enjoyed back-to-back successes in Minneapolis and Deerfield. For the Fuehrs, it is on to Houston in November.
New York dealer S. Scott Powers advertised a collection of 33 Native American burl-ash ladles and scoops and sold all but eight of them by early Saturday. He also parted with a pair of wooden bellows carved with a stylized bust-length portrait.
Newcomers Hilary and Paulette Nolan sold a Maine cupboard-over-desk in crisp red paint that they advertised in the show catalog.
Fearing competition, a collector purchased a Pilgrim Century chest from Peter Eaton rather than let it go to the show. Once at the fair, the Newbury, Mass., furniture specialist wrote up a Connecticut banister back side chair with a rose carving in its crest, a Boston Federal card table, a William and Mary blanket chest, a small eastern Connecticut chest-on-frame, a Hudson Valley shoe-foot hutch table and a lighting device.
“One person came into our booth with inventory numbers from my website. It demonstrates how shows drive traffic these days,” said paintings specialist Joan Brownstein, who made a number of small sales.
“I wrote tickets for four or five hours,” said Brian Cullity, who made a total of 19 sales, including that of a New England wing chair with nicely turned legs.
Van Tassel/Baumann American Antiques was off to a good start, having marked up a pair of bronze figures of John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, and allegorical views of the Four Seasons in circa 1800 Scottish frames.
“On Saturday, I never got to eat,” said Don Olson. A marketing executive at Eastman Kodak in Rochester, N.Y., the specialist in American folk art parted with trade signs and a rare wooden chandelier of circa 1790.
One of the best-looking displays belonged to Elliott and Grace Snyder, who featured English and American needlework and a full-length portrait of John James Stewart, a New Yorker, in a spare interior by the English-born William Weaver, who spent much of his career in Charleston.
“We had our best ADA show ever,” said Grace Snyder, ticking off a list of sales that included a Queen Anne table and the enormous burl bowl on top of it, a paint decorated Schoharie chest, a child’s chair, a candlestand with a diamond-shape tray top, a lavishly carved banister back chair and a dozen smalls.
“Rare” and “important” are the most overworked words in the antiques lexicon, but the superlatives are well earned at the ADA Historic Deerfield Antiques Show. We would be remiss if we did not mention Nathan Liverant and Son, whose show-stopping stand included a prize Litchfield County, Conn., Chippendale cherry chest of drawers with a signature cross-brace support; a Massachusetts Chippendale mahogany dwarf clock by John Bailey II; and a pair of Housatonic Valley, Conn., Chippendale side chairs whose stylistic details were suggestive of both Stratford and Woodbury.
The Connecticut River Valley was represented at Samuel Herrup Antiques by an oil on canvas painting of the Oxbow by J.B. Spencer and by silk embroideries from Sarah Pierce’s academy and the Abby Wright School, two valley institutions, at Stephen and Carol Huber, whose exhibition, “With Needle & Thread: Schoolgirl Embroidery from The Connecticut River Valley,” remains at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Conn., through January 30.
Not everything in the show was New England. A delegation of Pennsylvania dealers offering furniture, folk art, ceramics, prints and textiles from the Mid-Atlantic states were joined by Virginia dealer Sumpter Priddy, who turned heads with a paint decorated Shenandoah blanket chest and an elegantly chaste North Carolina sideboard with pristine surface.
English furniture specialists John Fiske and Lisa Freeman unveiled a recent purchase, a Yorkshire coffer of circa 1610 whose holly and box inlays foreshadow American paint decoration, and a set of medieval architectural elements with bestiary carvings. With a circa date of 1500, the carvings were the earliest items at the show.
At the other end of the dateline was Newsom & Berdan’s circa 1890 dog-head cane by the folk carver “Schtockschnitzler” Simmons and S. Scott Power’s “American Graffiti,” a disembodied tabletop made abstract art by its dense profusion of carved inscriptions.
“We’ve had tremendous interest in our three portraits,” said Michael Seward, the show newcomer who featured three paintings on panel that were recently identified in The Magazine Antiques as the work of Ralph D. Curtis, formerly called the Skaneateles Artist.
There were outstanding portraits large and small, from Jeffrey Tillou’s Ammi Phillips “Portrait of Emily Miner Fox,” fetchingly attired in green velvet and a paisley shawl against a signature black backdrop, to Elle Shushan’s wall of American and European miniatures. Shushan’s sales included a Boston miniature of 1776 by Joseph Dunkerly. Of the sitter, the Philadelphia dealer said, “She was fairly naïve even though Dunkerly was the most academic Boston had to offer then.”
One of the rarest portraits was Olde Hope’s “Prize Cow” by Albany, N.Y., artist Thomas K. Van Zandt. Most livestock portraits are English, not American.
Textiles were high art at Colette Donovan, who singled out hooked and appliquéd rugs of supremely subtle coloration and imaginative technique, and Oriental Rugs Ltd, whose “art for the floor” was epitomized by a loosely patterned serapi of 1875 and a Bakhshayesh of rare design and appealing palette.
To its credit, management has not been tempted to fix what is not broken. With 50 exhibitors, the ADA Historic Deerfield Antiques Show is small and select. It is not everyone’s taste, but it is Valhalla for those who are passionate about good, early American fare, selected with care and presented with integrity.
“We’ve created an old-fashioned New England show with really great quality,” said Ed Hild of Olde Hope Antiques, New Hope, Penn.
“It’s important to us to be part of the ADA. It’s an excellent group,” said Chinese Export porcelain dealer Rich Mellin. “Just yesterday, a fellow member referred a major sale to us.”
The 2011 ADA Historic Deerfield Antiques Show is planned for Columbus Day Weekend, October 8‹. Also bear in mind Historic Deerfield’s upcoming furniture symposium, “The Full Splendor of Beauty and Grace: Design and Proportion in Early American Architecture and Furniture,” planned for November 12‱4.