Published: February 7, 2001
NEW YORK CITY – The Winter Antiques Show, now in its 47th year, has become so exquisitely diversified that to wander through its gilded aisles is to pass from culture to culture, epoch to epoch without ever really coming to rest. Here there is Greco-Roman sculpture; over there is European Modern decor. Beauty is the point, beauty that transcends time and place, beauty that crosses cultural lines. In sum, the show articulates an international style whose merits are formal and whose appeal is broad.
Even so, organizers think of the Winter Antiques Show as an “American” fair, a fact underscored by the quintessentially American themes of recent loan shows. Colonial Williamsburg was honored this year; Nantucket Historical Association, last year; Historic Deerfield the year before that. This year’s fair, which opened for 11 days on January 18, paid generous dividends to Americana dealers, not surprising given the coincidence of Americana Week activities, which draw buyers to New York from all over the country. But by all accounts, Winter Antiques Show exhibitors in every category were pleased with their results, and the show’s charity sponsor, East Side House Settlement, enjoyed outstanding attendance.
American Folk Art
Highland Park, Ill., dealers Frank and Barbara Pollack pulled out all the stops with an artful display of exceptional folk art and painted furniture. “It’s been wonderful. I sold quite a bit on opening night, through the weekend, and into the beginning of the week. Everything went to different people, a lot of whom I haven’t met before,” said Barbara Pollack, who parted with “quite a few portraits of children, a beautiful little country card table, really good decorated Windsor chairs, a great big gameboard, and a paint-decorated Hoadley tall clock.”
Olde Hope Antiques of New Hope, Penn., found a new home for a pair of decorated New Hampshire wall boxes, $35,000. Only one other pair exists, at SPNEA’s Cogswell Grant. A tall chest of drawers from Alexandria, N.Y., circa 1800, $145,000; a Maine painted chest of drawers, $48,500; and a four-gallon stoneware watercooler by H. Myers of Maryland, circa 1825, $85,000, were other treasures in Olde Hope’s stand.
Decoy collectors have always been an impassioned lot, but folk art enthusiasts have sometimes overlooked these elegant sculptures. Fred and Kathryn Giampietro are changing that. The Connecticut dealers mounted a decoy display, selling most of their shorebirds in prices ranging from $2,500 to $50,000. Ex-collection of Nina Fletcher Little was a Greater Yellowlegs by Thomas Wilson, $18,500. A pony-tailed Red Breasted Merganser by Oscar Bibber, circa 1900, was $24,500.
Another ready-made collection was in store at Guthman Americana, where the diary, portrait, desk, apothecary case, and other belongings of Captain Thomas Brown (1801-1828) were offered for one price. Brown served in the Blockade of Tripoli in 1804-5, and commanded the schooner Governor Tompkins in engagements on Lake Ontario in 1814. Among the Westport, Conn., dealer’s many sales were a commission issued to the officer who succeeded General Wolfe and an 1885 rifled musket outfitted with its original bayonet, $27,500.
Before preview night was over, an institution put a hold on an Eastern Woodlands war club of circa 1620-1680 in the booth of Donald Ellis, Dundas, Ontario. With incised decorations and inlays of brass and shell, the 24-inch long weapon was collected by Lt. John King of Northampton, Mass., during a raid to recover prisoners taken during the burning of Deerfield. The club, priced at more than $250,000, descended in the family of a King descendant, Dr Timothy Dwight, president of Yale. It is one of only a half a dozen Deerfield war clubs. Only one remains in private hands.
“What’s left?,” American furniture dealer Wayne Pratt asked, looking around at his mostly spoken-for booth. “We’ve sold a four-drawer chest, two blocked-end chests, a William and Mary highboy, a set of four Chippendale ball-and-claw foot chairs, a mahogany slant-lid desk with a shell-carved lid, Windsor chairs, a really great weathervane, several pairs of andirons, Nantucket baskets, and a plaque of George Washington.” The Woodbury, Conn., dealer featured a Connecticut River Valley cherry bonnet-top desk-and-bookcase, $235,000, and the Wendell Family Chippendale blockfront chest of drawers, stamped I. Salter, Portsmouth.
Leigh Keno began selling soon after the show opened and never stopped. Gone was a rare Bermuda table, priced $95,000; a Federal Philadelphia card table, $175,000; a Roxbury tall-case clock; a New Hampshire candlestand, $110,000; and two tray tables. One, the booth’s centerpiece, was a New York walnut example of 1720, priced $385,000, from the Elting-Beekman shop, near Kingston, N.Y. A group of tables from the same shop were published by Metropolitan Museum of Art curator Peter Kenny in a 1994 article for Chipstone’s journal, American Furniture.
The warm tones of wood glowed against green felt walls at G.K.S. Bush. The Washington, D.C., dealer featured a Pennsylvania Chippendale tiger maple valuables chest, a New York Chippendale ball-and-claw foot table of circa 1760, a Queen Anne japanned tea table of circa 1740, and the Garvan family Connecticut Chippendale chest-on-chest, Windsor, Conn., circa 1780.
Towering above Peter Tillou’s exhibit was a scroll-top high chest of drawers made in the Mid Atlantic states between 1775-85. Ex-collection of Joe Kindig, Jr., it was $195,000. Sales of Southern furniture included several pieces of Virginia furniture, among them a pedimented desk, $225,000, and a writing-arm Windsor chair at Sumpter Priddy III, Alexandria, Va.
One of the handsomest stands belonged to Anthony Werneke, whose olive-paneled enclosure was studded with William & Mary and Queen Anne furniture, blown glass, and Delft pottery. Werneke’s sales included the Governor Talcot Hadley chest, $485,000; a New York Queen Anne looking glass; a circa 1650 needlework casket; a pair of brush-foot side chairs; a veneered flat-top highboy; a pair of William and Mary New York carved banister back side chairs; and an English needlework picture of circa 1700.
Carswell Rush Berlin, a New York dealer in American Federal and Classical furniture, unveiled a new find, a rosewood and cast-iron gueridon attributed to Duncan Phyfe & Sons, New York, 1837-40. Discovered in Rhode Island, the inscribed piece, $25,000, may be both the earliest documented piece of American cast-iron furniture as well as the only piece of iron furniture by Phyfe. Berlin also had a New York City sideboard of 1820, $175,000, and companion cellaret. The sideboard resembles one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries chose the Winter Show to take the wraps off of its latest find, a Duncan Phyfe work table of great sophistication. The tambour-front table of satinwood and burl satinwood dates to 1810-15 and was marked $225,000. A cozy classical interior from the inside, Hirschl & Adler’s booth outside supported large paintings. “Afternoon Reverie” by Rosamond Smith Bove, an oil on canvas of 1908, chased away the winter chill with its warm-weather splendor.
Gary Young, whose packed stand is always mecca for shoppers looking for English furniture and accessories, thought this year was a bit slower than last year’s banner fair. “A lot of people bought on Sunday who would have purchased at the preview or the first day. Maybe it was the inauguration,” he speculated. The Maryland dealer parted with his best piece, a George II William Kent mirror, dating to circa 1735 and measuring 67 inches tall. “We’ve also sold across the board – lots of tables and chairs, and a wide range of accessories, prints, pictures, and miniatures.”
Philip Colleck, Ltd., centered their booth with a mid-Eighteenth Century eight-paneled painted screen with a tooled gilt background and chinoiserie scenes imitating a coromandel lacquer screen of the late Seventeenth Century. “We’ve had dozens of screens in the twenty years that we’ve been in the firm, but this is the largest and most beautifully realized example,” said Mark Jacoby, who sold four pieces on opening night.
“Because of the economy, we were very nervous, but the worst didn’t happen,” said Chicago dealer Taylor Williams. “So far, this is our second best show. We’ve sold straight across the board – American and English furniture, glass, porcelain, lots of enamels, pictures, watercolors and needleworks.”
Winter Antiques Show exhibitors for 26 years, Georgian Manor Antiques sold not only to longtime clients but also to their children, now grown. “About forty percent of our sales were to new customers,” noted Enrique Goytizolo. For many years in Manhattan, Georgian Manor Antiques is now based in Fairhaven, Mass., about 45 minutes from Boston or Providence.
Schwarz Gallery of Philadelphia brought a large oval portrait of John Williams, a major work painted in 1766 by Benjamin West, the Pennsylvania-born artist who spent most of his life in London. “It’s the first I’ve ever had,” said Schwarz. “West didn’t do many portraits.” The artist was the second president of the Royal Academy and a history painter to George III. For 40 years, every American painter who had the chance traveled to London to study with West. One of his disciples was Thomas Sully, whose portrait of George Nugent, painted in 1827, was also a highlight of the Schwarz display.
With the help of designer Ralph Harvard, Elle Shushan gave her booth the inviting look of a print room. Though her inventory of miniature paintings is evenly distributed among American, English and Continental works, Shushan sold mostly American things this year. A highlight was the portrait of Elbridge Gerry, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, by John Ramage. At $35,000, it seemed a bargain, what with Ramage’s portrait of George Washington fetching a record $1.2 million at Christie’s on January 19.
The Fine Art Society’s inviting presentation mingled a Fortuny evening coat, $28,000, with William Morris textiles, Christopher Dresser pottery, and a St Ives harbor view by Peter Moffat Lindner, oil on canvas, $35,000. The London dealers sold a Nevison painting and a Thomas Jeckyll cast-iron fireplace surround in the Aesthetic manner, circa 1876, each for five figures.
His booth studded with canvases by Sanford Robinson Gifford, George Inness, William Trost Richards, and Charles Harold Davis, New Haven and New York dealer Thomas Colville sold ten paintings before the show was half over. Meanwhile, the Julius Lowy Frame & Restoring Company outdid itself with an exhibit devoted entirely to Spanish Baroque picture frames and antique Spanish furniture.
Prints and Documents
The Old Print Shop boasted two brilliantly colored Currier & Ives rarities, “The Mississippi in Time of War” and “The Mississippi in Time of Peace.” “We’ve probably owned only two in our entire career,” said dealer Robert Newman.
Enshrined in a case in Bauman Rare Books’ high-ceilinged, book-lined library was a first collected edition of Shakespeare’s poems, London, 1640, $250,000, and an inscribed first edition of Winnie-the-Pooh, $135,000.
Print dealer Graham Arader III of King of Prussia, Penn., sold four views of New York; a collection of Eighteenth Century designs of Greek and Etruscan vases; and a botanical watercolor by Redout.
Sales at manuscript dealer Kenneth W. Rendell ran the gamut, from an Evita Peron inscribed photograph, to a Noel Coward letter, to a document on the Japanese surrender in World War II.
Silver and Jewelry
All around town, Colonial American silver enjoyed a fantastic surge as three pieces of hollowware at Sotheby’s and one at Christie’s sold in excess of $452,500, the previous record. The old benchmark was established by upstate New York dealer Jonathan Trace, a key player at the latest round of sales. “We’ve had a lovely opening night,” Trace’s partner, Paige Inslee, said from their booth at the Winter Antiques Show. Noted Trace, “I believe the market’s up for everyone. We’ve sold some important silver: a Myer Myers sugar bowl, a Joseph Richardson sugar bowl, a Philip Syng salver, among other rdf_Descriptions.”
S.J. Shrubsole Corporation had one of its best shows ever, selling jewelry; four silver coffee pots from London, 1710 to 1745; and a Queen Anne monteith by Richard Syng, London, 1705. Also sold was a silver chocolate pot, circa 1690, marked $120,000.
“The show’s going very well for all of us,” Robert Israel, of Kentshire Galleries Ltd., New York, cheerfully noted. “We’ve sold a pair of library chairs in the manner of Henry Holland and some wonderful jewelry.” Jewelry specialist Ellen Israel found customers only too happy to claim a fantastic corsage brooch of 1860, made of diamonds and rubies in its original case; a Cartier Art Deco citrine and diamond brooch; a Fontenay Etruscan Revival necklace, circa 1860; and an enamel and gold old-mine cut diamond brooch, circa 1840.
“We came here slightly nervous. We were worried that the decline in the stock market might affect our clients but we’ve found a firm resolve to buy the best, the rarest, and the most unusual. We’ve sold to several new clients,” said Peter Finer, the show’s only dealer in English and Continental arms and armor. Sales included a Nineteenth Century Spanish casket decorated entirely in gold, a Japanese Edo period dagger, and a German processional sword, circa 1580.
Stephen and Carol Huber were also vigorous on both the auction and show fronts. Having picked up a rare Philadelphia sconce embroidered by the daughter of one of Philadelphia’s best known schoolmistresses at Sotheby’s for $170,750, the Connecticut dealers also found time to sell a Seventeenth Century English mirror whose frame enclosed embroidered panels under glass, $165,000; an important Bristol, R.I., sampler; and a pair of Norwich, Conn., samplers.
Peter Pap Oriental Rugs sold a Bakahshaish carpet woven in Persia, late Nineteenth Century, priced $120,000. Balour, meanwhile, hung huge embroidered Ottoman panels outside its tented enclosure. To similar effect, L’Antiquaire and The Connoisseur affixed a pair of Armorial trophy panels from Piedmont, 1670-90, on its outside walls.
In the decade since he joined the Winter Antiques Show, Patrick Connor of Martyn Gregory, London, has found an increasingly knowledgeable audience for “good China trade paintings.” Not only can Americans train their eyes at the Peabody Essex Museum, but there are also wonderful collections in New York, Nantucket and elsewhere. Highlights of Connor’s exhibit this year included a portrait of a Chinese emperor, dating to the late Eighteenth Century and probably by a Jesuit artist; a circa 1770 set of gouaches including four major China trade views; and one of the best gouaches of Shanghai.
“We’ve had lots of knowledgeable people through,” said Roger Keverne. His compact display contained two first-rate Imperial portraits, a huge Tang horse, a big blue and white Ming jar, and a Sixteenth Century Ming chair. “We’ve sold across the board,” noted the London dealer, “including a pair of glazed Tang pottery figures, priced $85,000, and a pair of Chinese vases, marked $20,000.” Villanova, Penn., dealer Elinor Gordon sold a Chinese export bowl painted with two sailing ships flying American flags to West Coast museum.
“All my best things are gone,” said Joan Mirviss, a dealer in Japanese art who divides her time between New York and Tokyo. “I’ve sold all my screens, over 50 woodblock prints, and my bronzes. Several things are on hold for museums. This was probably my second best fair across the board.”
Few things were more venerable than five pieces of Neolithic pottery, circa 3000-2500 BC, at Ralph M. Chait of New York. “This is as old as it gets in Chinese,” explained Andrew Chait. The pieces were $5,500 to $10,500.
At the other end of the spectrum, Barry Friedman, a New York dealer in European avant-garde design, sold a 1928 Swedish Neo-classical collector’s cabinet made of precious woods; a Gilbert Poillerat bed and floor lamp; and an Arbus table. Geoffrey Diner, an Arts & Crafts specialist from Washington, D.C., parted with a Donegal carpet attributed to Voysey and a Stickley hexagonal table with a leather top, $85,000. Maklowe Gallery of New York wrapped a Tiffany paperweight vase, marked $175,000.
The Best Is Not Too Good For You
Having committed to the major undertaking of bringing staff and collections to New York, Colonial Williamsburg went all out, mounting an impressive display and hosting several events for friends and supporters of the Virginia institution.
“We wanted to show the quality and depth of our collections and provide a regional cross-section. Many objects were taken off view so they could be here,” noted Colonial Williamsburg’s chief curator, Ron Hurst.
Created by Stephen Saitas, the talented designer responsible for reinstallations at the New York State Historical Association, Historic Deerfield, and Yale, “The Best Is Not Too Good For You” celebrated 75 years of collecting at Colonial Williamsburg.
“We’ve brought in 48 of our top-ten favorite things,” joked furniture curator Phil Zea. From a collection of 60,000 objects, the curators chose such high-style furniture masterpieces as a Newport tall clock by William Claggett, housed in a shell-carved Goddard-Townsend case; and a Thomas Affleck Philadelphia Chippendale chest-on-chest. Equally appreciated was a rare Virginia tea table with a folky, scalloped skirt. A Cherokee pipe excavated at the site of the Charlton Coffeehouse in Williamsburg was one of Williamsburg’s least expected offerings.
Satisfied exhibitors sighed with relief when the show was over and praised their host, East Side House Settlement. “The show’s never been more beautiful,” said Mark Jacoby, chairman of the Winter Antiques Show dealers committee. “Opening night was packed. We’re very happy with our new publicist, Susan Magrino Agency. At the dealers’ meeting, complaints were few and minor. That speaks very highly of the show’s director, Catherine Sweeney Singer.”
Observed Taylor Williams, “In the 19 years that we’ve done the Winter Antiques Show under our own banner, I’ve always considered it a barometer for the year to come. I sure hope that’s the case this year.”
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