Published: December 20, 2011
It is not easy launching a new antiques show, especially in the current economic conditions. Just ask Ralph and Karen DiSaia and Diana Bittel, the trio that introduced the Fairfield County Antiques Show over the December 3-4 weekend at the SoNo Field House in Norwalk.
“We had an impressive list of dealers, 65 strong, and a large, clean facility for the show, but we did not get out the gate we had hoped for,” Karen DiSaia said. To promote the show, along with a strong advertising package, management gave every exhibitor as many “comp” tickets as they wanted to pass along to clients. “As a result, a good portion of our gate got in free,” Karen added.
“The people who came really liked the show, and many came up to me and said how wonderful it was and they were going to tell their friends to attend,” Diana Bittel said. She noted that “people liked the AstroTurf floor surface, and one lady commented that she had been walking about the show for many hours and her legs did not hurt, as was usually the case when she went to antiques shows.”
With the first year now under their belts, management is going to question the exhibitors as to what went wrong, and right, and what they would like to see in the coming years. At this point, a preview seems doubtful for 2012, as the association with Norwalk Hospital did not produce a very strong opening night. “We have not completely ruled out another preview with a different sponsor, however, there are a couple of other options we are taking into consideration,” Karen said.
As with all shows, selling was a mixed bag among the exhibitors, with those dealing in Americana, such as folk art and painted furniture, coming out the strongest. At the end of the day on Saturday, a number of the dealers, when asked how it was going, commented either, “I am doing okay” or “I am clearing my expenses.”
However, on one thing all agreed: It was a great-looking show, with variety and not top-heavy in any one area of collecting. Now the word must get out that there is an antiques show equal to or better than any other show that part of Connecticut has ever seen.
A major piece of folk art, a large carousel lion, greeted visitors to the show from the up-front booth of Kelly Kinzle of New Oxford, Penn. This figure, in original park paint, was by E. Joy Morris, Philadelphia, circa 1902, signed, and measured 62 inches long, 62 inches high and 16 inches wide.
Brick Walk Fine Art of West Hartford, Conn., showed a horse portrait of “Old Vin,” a large brown horse standing under a tree in a meadow, by Charles G. Blake and measuring 22 by 28 inches. A large New Orleans carnival wheel in bright colors dated from the early Twentieth Century, and a windmill weathervane/wind toy with a pair of carved wooden horses on the tail piece was painted white with red trim.
A row of ten small, dry, aquarium fish, with a metal loop on each nose, were hand painted over gold and silver foil and part of an early fishing game displayed in the booth of A Bird In Hand, Florham Park, N.J. A carving of a horned owl, painted, by Herter, Waseca, Minn., dated circa 1947‱954.
Heller-Washam Antiques of Portland, Maine, had a “better than marginal” show, selling a number of things, including a bunch of smalls and one piece of furniture, a tavern table with button feet and shaped legs.
Hanover & Seidman Antiques of Colchester, Conn., had a circa 1790 harvest table in early red surface, New England origin, that measured 62¾ inches long and 39 inches wide with the leaves up. The tag noted, “This table is one of the nicest we have ever seen.” Leaning against the back wall was a late Eighteenth Century American painted fireboard, pine, with ships on a rough sea, a home and mill on shore, with a painted delft tile surround depicting a variety of animals and birds.
A wrought iron armillary sphere, about 4 feet in diameter and mounted on a carved stone column base that made it tall enough to reach up to the lights on the frontis board of the booth, was at the front of the display of Brennan & Mouilleseaux, Northfield, Conn. It dated circa 1950, while the base was circa 1920.
Among the pieces of furniture in the booth of SAJE Americana, Short Hills, N.J., was a Queen Anne country New Hampshire lowboy, skirt with acorn drops, circa 1770, in tiger maple with white pine secondary. A Federal cylinder top desk in mahogany, circa 1810, Boston, drawers with string inlay, measured 48 inches high, 39 inches wide and 22¼ inches deep.
The tag said the legs were removable for easy moving, and that would be necessary to relocate the large chopping table shown in the booth of Colette Donovan of Merrimacport, Mass. It dated from the early Nineteenth Century and came from the Midwest. A long shelf, mounted as if a fireplace was below, was hung with an early powder horn and a row of red, blue and tan long stockings, as if Santa would be by to fill them. And along with the Christmas spirit, a nativity scene with 18 detailed and handmade figures and animals, the complete set, dated from the early Twentieth Century.
An assembled set of 11 chestnut bottles, circa 1790‱820, were arranged in a row against the back wall in the booth of Jeff and Holly Noordsy, Cornwall, Vt. On a corner shelf was a large late Eighteenth or early Nineteenth Century Dutch kidney-shaped demijohn with a painted naval scene, portrait of a sea captain and family crest.
A Pilgrim Century blanket chest, probably Massachusetts, late Seventeenth Century, with paint history intact, from the collection of Fairfield Whiting, Antrim, N.H., was offered by Stephen-Douglas, Rockingham, Vt., as was an early New York State great chair, early red painted surface, late Seventeenth Century, labeled “a rare survivor.” Jumbo, a carved and painted elephant on wheels from Cornish, N.H., dated circa 1870 and had the complete family history written on the bottom. A large worktable, capable of seating 10 or 12 people, caught the interest of two collectors, one of which had a hold on the piece while going home to measure. “I am sure it will be sold,” Douglas Jackman said on Saturday, “and we will miss it as we just used it to seat some of our regular Thanksgiving dinner guests.”
Thomas Longacre of Marlborough, N.H., took only just over half a booth this year, and not because he wanted to. Actually, he gave into his wife, Beverly, who came with five or six Christmas trees, all loaded to the point of bending branches with early Christmas ornaments. Three of the trees were scalped on opening day, as regular customers came to the booth and filled shopping baskets with treasures. Bev’s side of the operation was well organized, with proper shopping bags, a small desk and chairs, and extra help to run the adding machine. Tom did not have such a bad time either, selling a tall blue painted cupboard, several pieces of folk art and a 31-inch-wide blanket chest, paint decorated, one drawer, tall bootjack ends, of New Hampshire origin.
Traces of the original paint remained on a Swedish chest of drawers, Gustavian period, circa 1800, with the original hardware and drawers with reeded carvings, in the booth of Dawn Hill Antiques, New Preston, Conn. A good-looking white painted wooden horse, Belgium, circa 1880, 34 inches long, stood on a table at the end of the booth.
Furniture and paintings filled the booth of The Hanebergs Antiques, East Lyme, Conn., including a brace back Windsor armchair branded “E. Tracy,” Lisbon, Conn., in old yellow paint, and a China Trade ship portrait, an American bark entering the Port of Macao and flying the house flag for Tucker Deland, Salem, Mass. It was attributed to the Henry Tuke Painter.
By the time Georgian Manor Antiques, Fairhaven, Mass., fit all of the pieces of furniture into the booth, there was little room for walking about. Those who ventured in, however, found a very nice selection of English and French pieces, including an ebonized carved wood and gilt tripod center table in the Renaissance style, circa 1870‱880, 22½ inches in diameter, and a French dome topped wood and wirework birdcage, Nineteenth Century, headed with a classical finial. It measured 39 inches high, 23 inches wide and 14 inches deep.
Diana Bittel of Bryn Mawr, Penn., had a large chest on chest of New England origin, tiger maple, that measured 78 inches tall. Dating circa 1770‱780, the chest was shown in Philadelphia, 1929, in the Independence Hall Exhibition of American Furniture. A tall case clock from Portsmouth, N.H., was signed John Gaines and in a mahogany case with the original works. Dating circa 1800, it measured 80 inches tall. In addition, the walls, including a front wall to the right of the booth, were all covered with sailor’s valentines, about ten of them in three different sizes, and a large collection of woolwork pictures showing all kinds of British sailing ships.
Works of art offered by The Cooley Gallery, Old Lyme, Conn., included a large portrait of a young girl, “Youth,” signed upper right by the artist, Florence Minard, an oil on canvas measuring 62 by 30 inches. The subject was in a long white dress, holding the string to a horse pull toy.
Ted and Jennifer Fuehr of American Spirit Antiques, Shawnee Mission, Kan., have a strong interest in tiger maple furniture and weathervanes, as both are well represented in their booth. This time, tiger maple was in the form of a four-drawer chest, a classical worktable and a Hepplewhite drop leaf table with straight skirt and tapering legs, circa 1800. Weathervanes were in the form of eagles (two), horses (two) and a horse and sulky with rider.
John Keith Russell, South Salem, N.Y., had a large end booth filled with Shaker furniture and accessories, including a document box with drawers, two short over one long, hinged lid, and flat-faced knobs. In the original red stain, it measured 13 inches high, 22¼ inches wide and 12 inches deep. A grand ladder back armchair with vigorous turnings, stain and varnish finish, probably Pennsylvania or New Jersey, dated circa 1770, and on the back wall hung a portrait of a young boy in green dress, holding a whip, Prior-Hamblin School, oil on board, circa 1830, and possibly in the original frame.
“I am really fond of the folk art townscapes that show up every so often, and I just got the one hanging on the back wall in time to bring to this show,” Don Olson of Rochester, N.Y., said. He pointed out the 34½-by-26½-inch oil on canvas, signed lower left by R. Swanson, depicting a town scene that included a large manufacturing-type plant, a train track running through town with an approaching train, a horse and carriage on a dirt road lined with telephone poles and a residence, all set against a mountain in the background with a pink sky. “It is either New York State or Pennsylvania and dates circa 1860‱870,” Don added. Hanging on the side wall of the booth was a trade sign in the shape of a historic “bicorn” military hat, wood with the name “E. Tolman” painted on both sides. Probably from an early inn or stage coach stop, the sign originally hung in Sandy Creek, N.Y.
Greg Kramer & Co., Robesonia, Penn., had a monumental Masonic lodge throne chair with ram mask arms and a hunting scene across the top back. It was from Pennsylvania and dated from the late Nineteenth Century. Taking up an equal amount of space was a five-story birdhouse with places to nest at all levels and on all sides. The penthouse had a fancy catwalk and there were countless columns and special towers for the birds to nest in.
As usual, about every inch of wall space was taken in the booth of The Norwood’s Spirit of America, Timonium, Md., in part by a large hooked rug depicting a standing dog, “The Spotted Charmer,” white with brown spots, and enclosed within a leaf design border. It dated circa 1880. Below it, and standing on the floor, was a wood carved horse, paint decorated, including the saddle.
Hanes & Ruskin, Old Lyme, Conn., showed a paint decorated harvest table found in a barn in Brattleboro, Vt., 6 feet long and dating circa 1840, and a child’s sack back Windsor armchair with vase and ring turnings, New England, circa 1780‱795. A black painted surface had been removed down to the original white. White and White Antiques, Skaneateles, N.Y., had a tall Sheraton china press against the back wall, a circa 1795‱815 piece in maple, cherry, mahogany and pine with old finish. It was from either North Shore, Eastern Pennsylvania or New Jersey and had been deaccessioned from a Pittsburgh museum.
Aileen Minor Antiques of Centreville, Md., put on quite a formal display with a large dining table surrounded by a set of ten chairs at the front of her booth. The gondola side chairs from New York State, School of Duncan Phyfe, circa 1830, had curved back splats of figured mahogany. The Boston pedestal base, accordion-action extension table dated circa 1825 and with five leaves measured 151 inches long. When closed, the diameter of the top was 48 inches and the table was capable of seating 10 to 12 people. It had a fluted pedestal center column and came out of an Old Lyme estate.
Newcastle, Maine, dealers Jewett-Berdan showed off seven pairs of New England Nineteenth Century sleigh mittens on a round board covered with white felt, and on the same wall showed a portrait of a young girl in white dress, on pine panel, attributed to Hannah Fairfield of Woodstock, Conn., that descended in the Mann family of Longmeadow, Mass. “Folk art has been selling very well,” Butch Berdan said, pointing out a rare globe hitching post by Savage & Son of San Francisco, that sported a red sold tag.
A large eagle weathervane by Harris & Co., Boston, circa 1880, was displayed between a pair of Victorian period wine coolers, Sheffield, circa 1850, maker’s mark of James Dixon & Son, in the booth of Robert Lloyd of New York City. Standing against the left wall of the booth, between two cases filled with silver, was an American Nineteenth Century barber pole with a large gold painted ball on top. Filling out the rest of this 7-foot-tall piece were red, white and blue decorations. Among the pieces of silver offered was a George I coffee pot, London, 1715, with the pot maker’s mark of David Willaume and the stand maker’s mark of Pierre Platel.
Judith and James Milne, New York City, had a zebra lying in their booth, a figure dating circa 1930 in the original paint, possibly a store figure or shop window dressing. Among several weathervanes was a wood and iron horse, sulky and rider, circa 1880, originally from New Hampshire. A packet boat model was mounted on a board, originally a trade sign from the Finger Lakes area of New York State.
“We are already in the planning stages for the show next year, and it will be the same time period and the same place,” Karen DiSaia said. She indicated that the same slate of dealers will be invited back, and “we are going to do everything in our power to bring in more people. Increasing the gate is a real priority.”
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