Published: April 16, 2002
Story By Laura Beach
Photos By R. Scudder Smith
PHILADELPHIA, PENN. – This year’s presentation left little doubt in anyone’s mind that Philadelphia’s reputation as the “best American antiques show” is well-deserved. From clockwork organization to impeccable display, superlative offerings, record attendance on preview night and the following day, and strong sales, the 41-year-old show approached perfection.
“From an operational point of view, it has been a terrific show,” agreed manager Josh Wainwright. “More important, it’s the best-looking show we’ve had in the 12 years that I’ve been here, both in the quality of the material and the way that it was displayed. Sales across the board were phenomenal, reflecting that quality.”
A benefit for the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, the Philadelphia Antiques Show opened on Friday, April 5, continuing through April 10 at the 33rd Street Armory. Security precautions were heightened in the wake of the last fall’s terrorist attacks. Guards were posted at every entrance during set up, and patrons needed photo identification to enter the show.
During the day, natural light streamed down through clerestory windows in the cathedral ceilinged Armory, illuminating the contours of a show softened by gray carpeting and felt-covered walls in every hue. Determined to make the best impression, first-time exhibitors such as Stella Rubin pulled out all the stops. The Potomac, Md., dealer hired Holly Masterson, a Santa Fe, N.M., designer credited with Woodard & Greenstein’s creative presentations for the Winter Antiques Show, to concoct her dramatically trapezoidal display, which gave one the Alice-in-Wonderland sensation of falling inside of a giant quilt block.
Others chose different ways to make a splash. In a nod to local tradition, Hirschl & Adler Galleries of New York hoisted an icon of Pennsylvania folk art, an oil on canvas “Peaceable Kingdom” by Edward Hicks, to the back wall of its elegantly understated stand. “There are so few ‘Peaceable Kingdoms’ left in private hands. I haven’t had one for ten to 15 years,” said the gallery’s chairman, Stuart Feld. From Hicks’ Late Kingdom period, the $1.6 million painting sold before the show’s end.
New exhibitor Ralph M. Chait Galleries of Manhattan sold its best piece, an Eighth Century Tang horse in a grazing position, priced $85,000. Allan Chait said only one other similar figure is known, in the collection of the provincial museum in Xian.
The fair’s only other specialist in Chinese art, Edith and Joel Frankel, were basking in the success of their current New York gallery show, “The Writings of My Mind: Painting and Calligraphy by Wan Qingli,” on view through May 4. So far, the show has resulted in sales to the Ashmolean in Oxford, the Kansas City Art Museum, and Connecticut College. A Seventh Century Tang horse in a prancing position was a highlight of the dealers’ Philadelphia display.
“We had a fantastic show,” said Carswell Rush Berlin, a first-time exhibitor specializing in American Federal and Classical design. The New York dealer sold two settees, a cheval mirror and a child’s armoire. The Philadelphia Classical cheval dressing mirror is the only one of its kind known. The first settee is an 1805 form associated with Duncan Phyfe. Illustrated as a “masterpiece” in Albert Sack’s New Fine Points of Furniture, it relates to an example at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The second sofa was a Classical piece with sabre legs, made in Salem about 1815.
“It was one of the most successful shows that I have ever participated in,” said Arthur Liverant. “Virtually all the dealers did well. There is nothing better than the community spirit that such success generates.” The Colchester, Conn., dealer played a major part in that success by spearheading plans for the Antiques Dealers Association of America’s awards dinner on Saturday evening. Nearly 300 dealers, curators and collectors turned out to honor Albert Sack.
Additionally, Nathan Liverant & Son sold many of their most important pieces: a musical tall-case clock, $125,000; a Queen Anne drop-leaf table, $85,000; a scalloped top tea table; a curly maple desk, $150,000; paintings; plus eight children’s chairs from their “Cheeky Little Chair” exhibit, mounted on the exterior walls of the Liverant booth.
American furniture specialist Leigh Keno did nearly $1.4 million worth of business, selling a Boston baroque slab table, a Providence sideboard, a Salem schoolgirl-decorated two-drawer stand, and a ball-and-claw foot candlestand that he had appraised on Antiques Roadshow for $150,000. Keno first saw the Boston slab table, which relates to a group with carvings by John Welch, in Tucson 15 years ago. A second slab table was a Philadelphia Rococo example made for the Stroud family, purchased by Keno at the Mr and Mrs Lammot du Pont Copeland Auction in January.
The magnificent sideboard, consigned to Keno by Virginia collector Linda Kaufman, was a Providence piece made of cherry, mahogany, and mahogany veneers with silver inlays engraved with the date 1803 and the initials T.B. and J.B., giving rise to the belief that it was a wedding gift. Decorated with scenes of the White Mountains from Shelburne, Balston Spa, and Windsor Castle, the Salem worktable was ex-collection of David Schorsch and Israel Sack, Inc.
Small and sweet was the word in Guy Bush’s booth, where the New York dealer combined a rare Nantucket Windsor child’s chair and a Salem, Mass., child’s desk-on-frame, $95,000. For adults, Bush offered a svelte Connecticut River Valley serpentine-front chest of drawers, $185,000, and a sculptural Philadelphia armchair with serpentine arms, serpentine supports and scrolled knuckles, $165,000.
Wayne Pratt’s piece-de-resistance was a bonnet-top desk-and-bookcase, an exceptional Queen Anne cherry example made in Newburyport, circa 1760. The $750,000 casepiece features flame finials, fan and shell carvings inside and out, a demi-dome interior with scalloped pigeonhole dividers, and bandy legs ending in pad feet.
Not one to disappoint his following, H.L. Chalfant Antiques of West Chester, Penn., brought a walnut Queen Anne bonnet-top highboy with tobacco leaf finials. Attributed to Samuel Harding of Philadelphia, circa 1730, it was $225,000.
Phil Bradley ringed his booth with tall-case clocks, the most expensive of which was a Wilmington, Del., example by George Crow, circa 1740, $210,000. The Downington, Penn., dealer sold a Berks County decorated dower chest dated 1791.
Having enjoyed brisk sales over the winter months, C.L. Prickett Antiques brought few of the pieces it had advertised for the Philadelphia show. Instead, the Yardley, Penn., dealers featured the McMurtrie Family Chippendale side chair, $135,000, pictured in Horner’s Blue Book and formerly owned by noted collector Richard Dietrich. In opposite corners of the Prickett booth stood a Salem bonnet-top chest-on-chest, $325,000, and a Salem flattop quarter-columned chest-on-chest, $225,000,
Of Philadelphia interest at F.J. Carey III, Ambler, Penn., was a Robert Wellford fireplace mantel ornamented with a scene of the Battle of Lake Erie and portraits medallions of Washington and Franklin, $32,500.
Dover, Del., dealer James Kilvington stayed busy selling, in the opening hours of the show, a Philadelphia sampler by Ann Robins, a pair of New York Chippendale side chairs, and a Pennsylvania Sheraton chest.
A contingent of Southern dealers included Sumpter Priddy, an Alexandria, Va., dealer who featured a Philadelphia piecrust tea table with birdcage support and ball-and-claw feet, $195,000; a tambour writing desk and bookcase, $98,000; and a Chester County dish-top candlestand, sold on opening night.
South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland furniture was the strong suit for Jim Pratt of Estate Antiques. The Charleston, S.C. dealer unveiled a pair of beehive-shaped Baltimore knife boxes, $25,000.
J. Michael Flanigan of Baltimore showed a Maryland easy chair with reeded legs, circa 1770; a pair of Hartford shield-back chairs, $20,000, and a Southampton, N.Y., flattop highboy attributed to S. Jagger.
Exceptional Windsor furniture of every description dotted the floor. Offerings included Peter Eaton’s Connecticut writing-arm Windsor and Allan Katz’s shapely side chair, both in old green and $24,000 each.
Philadelphia dealers Jim and Nancy Glazer sold a Philadelphia comb-back armchair in worn, original paint, circa 1750-60. The piece is illustrated in Charles Santore’s The Windsor Style in America, Volume II.
Samuel Herrup of Sheffield, Mass., featured a Lancaster sidechair of circa 1700, $35,000; and a pre-cursor to American Windsor furniture, an English three-legged armchair of circa 1640 that is nearly the mate to the famous Harvard president’s chair.
Country furniture highlights included Allan Katz’s two-piece Ohio Mennonite step back cupboard in dazzling lipstick red with contrasting turquoise interior, circa 1840, $175,000. Before preview was over, the Woodbridge, Conn., dealer sold a carved and gilded pine eagle on a polychrome shield, $80,000. Another rarity in his stand was a zinc tobacco figure by J.W. Fiske of New York City, circa 1879, surviving in its original paint.
Greg K. Kramer and John Newcomer’s colorful display included a Berks County tall-case clock by Peter Miller with eye-popping red and gray marbleized surface, $110,000, and two Sugar Valley yellow and red grained corner cupboards. The cupboards sold during preview, along with a Lancaster County flintlock rifle.
The show produced two major pieces of Soap Hollow, Penn., furniture. A great black and red step back double-door cupboard, dated 1875, by John Sala, was $235,000 at Olde Hope Antiques, New Hope, Penn. James and Nancy Glazer’s initialed chest was $58,000.
“Let’s put it this way. My batting average is better than Ted William’s,” said Jim Glazer, who, an hour into the show had sold a Lancaster County schrank with unusual ogival panels in dry blue-gray paint; a Pennsylvania curly maple tall clock; and the Windsor armchair, among other major pieces.
Shaker specialists Courcier & Wilkins of Austerlitz, N.Y., brought an unusual Mount Lebanon child’s high chair, $8,500; a classic Benjamin Youngs tall-case clock, $45,000; and a Shaker tailoring counter, $45,000.
Among a handful of English furniture dealers was Georgian Manor of Fairhaven, Mass., featuring a Yorkshire country Queen Anne dressing table, circa 1730, $17,500; and Alfred Bullard, Inc., of Philadelphia, with a George II carved giltwood looking glass, $35,000, and a George III mahogany dresser, $30,000. John Alexander, a Philadelphia dealer in English Arts and Crafts design, brought a set of six rushed seat, spindle-back Sussex chairs by Morris & Company, $11,000.
In recent years, folk art has been a major attraction in Philadelphia. On its regatta-blue walls, Olde Hope hung the masterful pair of Philadelphia double portraits of the McConnell children with their pets, $1,250,000, reminding one of the record-setting John Brewster double portraits auctioned in the late 1980s. The pair of watercolor mourning pictures by J.P. Clements of Ganesvoort, N.Y., 1835, that recently turned up at a Cherry Tree auction, where they sold to Massachusetts dealer John Sideli, reappeared in Olde Hope’s stand, priced $72,000.
Massachusetts dealer David Wheatcroft enjoyed sales of an oil on canvas portrait of a little girl in a yellow dress with a doll; a folky tall-case clock painted a bright red, yellow, green and black, circa 1840; a unique copper weathervane fashioned as six owls on a branch, circa 1890; a portrait of the Schuykill County Alms House, 1881; and a Jurgen Frederick Huge watercolor and gouache on paper of the “US Steam Frigate Missouri Stationed Off Gibraltar.”
“What we didn’t tell you is that we’re taking a percentage,” joked Don Walters and Mary Benisek as they stopped by to see Tim Hill, who took over their booth after Walters-Benisek gave up the Philadelphia Antiques Show. Hill, a first-time exhibitor from Michigan, featured Pennsylvania folk artist John Scholl’s 7’4″ fantasia, “Celebration,” a well-known folk sculpture first exhibited at the Willard Gallery in New York City in 1967 and later illustrated in Adele Earnest’s book, Folk Art in America. Hill also had a large whirligig figure of a naval captain, circa 1865, $145,000,illustrated in Ricco-Maresca’s book, American Primitive.
Connecticut dealers Peter and Jeffrey Tillou sold a pair of portraits of an unidentified man and woman by itinerant painter Ammi Phillips. Jeff Tillou said the paintings date to Phillips’ Dorr Period, about 1815.
Pennsylvania dealer Marcy Burns, the lone exhibitor of Native American art, showed a Hopi polychrome seed bowl attributed to Nampeyo, $23,000, and a Navaho woman’s blanket of 1870, $42,000.
Garden ornament specialists Nancy Wells and Jeffrey Henkel sold an early Twentieth Century privacy screen and granite pond surround at the preview. Their frisky pair of fox gatepost finials was $12,500.
Samplers and silk embroideries were bestsellers. “We’ve had a phenomenal show,” said Stephen Huber. “I’ve never seen a more enthusiastic opening-night crowd.” The Old Saybrook, Conn., dealer and his wife, Carol, sold their best rdf_Description, a pair of two large Philadelphia silk embroideries by Elizabeth and Sara Sholl depicting “Ruth and Her Mother” and “Ruth and Boaz”. In their original gilt frames, the pictures were $185,000. Other sales included a Saunders & Beach silk embroidery and a 1785 Newburyport sampler.
“It’s not much to look at,” confessed Amy Finkel a few hours before the show’s close on Wednesday. “We had a fabulous opening night and first day. My best piece – a 1740 Norwich, Conn., canvaswork picture – sold before I could get it to the show. I sold an important Philadelphia presentation sampler on opening night; a lovely little Moravian silk embroidery; a fabulous 1701 English band sampler from the school of Judith Hayle; plus some furniture.”
“This is the best hooked rug I’ve ever seen. The design and color scheme are incredible. It’s given me the ultimate case of the ‘keepsies,'” South Egremont, Mass., dealer Grace Snyder said of the painterly, room-size textile, $68,000, covering her back wall. Splashed on Oriental carpet specialist Peter Pap’s wall was a beautifully balanced and richly colored late Nineteenth Century Persian rug, $95,000.
Clients in tow, New York decorator Ellie Cullman intently examined an American Indian princess ship’s figurehead attributed to Joseph Bowers of New York, circa 1845, $55,000 at Hyland Granby Antiques of Hyannis Port, Mass.
“Come back in two days and I’ll have sold all my woolies,” said Paul Vandekar, who contrasted English and Chinese ceramics with playful sailors’ woolworks and sailors’ valentines. Along with the woolies, English pottery and porcelain sold well for the New York dealer.
“We’ve had a wonderful show,” said Virginia dealer John Suval, a 30-year veteran of the Philadelphia Antiques Show who sold several pieces of early English pottery, as well as Nineteenth Century English pottery and Chinese porcelain.
“I’ve probably owned 100 Noah’s arks over the past 20 years. This is one of the best three,” said Bryn Mawr, Penn., dealer Diana Bittel, who quickly sold the folk toy with over with 240 beautifully carved and painted figures, priced $30,000.
The show’s fine arts specialists offered a wealth of material of local interest. Highlights included stunning works on paper at Philadelphia’s Schwarz Gallery, which featured Nicolino Calyo’s luminous watercolor and gouache views, among them “The Schuykill River and the Waterworks,” circa 1835, ex-collections of Hirschl & Adler Galleries and Dietrich American Foundation; and Thomas Sully’s “Birthplace of Benjamin West,” 1810.
Book dealer William Reese of New Haven unveiled Charles Willson Peale’s oil portrait of George Washington, only 7 1/2 by 5 ¾ inches. One of five executed by the Philadelphia artist, it was $600,000. On offer at the Philadelphia Print Shop was John L. Krimmel’s “Procession of Victualers of Philadelphia,” a first edition print of 1821-22, $6,250.
In an abundance of riches, two exhibitors – Debra Force of New York and Hyland Granby Antiques- both offered views of Gran Manan by A.T. Bricher, circa 1882. At $165,000, Hyland Granby’s was the more expensive. Force pulled out all the stops with, among others, a Pennsylvania Impressionist view by Garber, “Autumn on The Farm,” $325,000, in its original, handmade frame.
Known for its ambitious loan exhibitions, the Philadelphia Antiques Show this year honored Stenton, borrowing from a host of lenders’ furniture and accessories that had once ornamented the country house of the wealthy Philadelphian James Logan (1674-1751).
Justifiably proud of the display, Sally Congdon, chairman of the Stenton Museum Committee, was alarmed to see a lanky visitor to the show lift a cushion from a rare Philadelphia shaped-back settee borrowed from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The privileged guest, as it turned out, was Morrison Heckscher, chairman of the Met’s American Wing.
Fittingly, two other gems in the loan show, a matching high chest and dressing table, were recent bequests of Mrs Lammot du Pont Copeland, who Heckscher described as the Brook Astor of Wilmington, Del.
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