Published: December 16, 2008
If in today’s economic currency, “good” is the new “excellent,” then by that standard, Victor Weinblatt, the country antiques and folk art specialist from South Hadley, Mass., recently registered an excellent show. “Marilyn Gould’s tireless efforts for her Wilton shows, the Wilton Historical Society and the High School Memorial Scholarship Fund deserve celebration, and that celebration came in the form of strong sales and an animated, enthusiastic and loyal gate,” he said.
Weinblatt was one of 110 dealers assembled for one day only †December 7 †at the annual Wilton Holiday Antiques Show conducted by Gould inside the Wilton High School field house. His sales included an important polychrome child’s checkerboard; a 4-foot-high British pond boat with original sails, rigging and the most exquisite original surface; and a Parcheesi board with center cornucopia and a boldly graphic targetlike bull’s-eye motif on reverse.
Additional sales for Weinblatt included a large Jersey Shore “Tourists & Rooms, Short Order Lunches” sign with robin’s-egg blue and white surface; a large “Meals & Lunches” double-sided sign; a Burma Shave “Angels” sign; a “Card House” sign from a well-known Vermont collection; a free-standing 6-foot-high mid-Nineteenth Century barber pole in exquisite original paint; a black and white naïve checkerboard with corner linen fold design; and an early Twentieth Century Nashua, N.H., store window hat display stand in the form of a harp.
There was, of course, snow greeting early buyers on Sunday morning †”It is, after all, Wilton,” quipped Gould †but it was only a dusting, and served more to put shoppers into a holiday mood than to keep them housebound. And much like the improbable image of Santa Claus really being able to cover the world’s vastness to deliver a sleigh full of gifts, Gould said she marveled at all the work and expense that went into creating a glittering one-day show. “It looked beautiful, people really seemed to enjoy it and all of the exhibitors did an excellent job remaining upbeat and positive despite what’s happening with the economy,” she said.
“The show went very well for us,” reported Bettina Krainin, a Woodbury, Conn., dealer who shows alongside Harold Cole Antiques. “The gate was wonderful and we were busy all day,” she said. The dealers sold a secretary at setup and a miniature early Eighteenth Century blanket chest during the show. The miniature blanket chest had come out of a New England collection of some 40 years and was made of basswood and pine. Also offered in the dealers’ booth was a Queen Anne table with cherry top and birch base with original surface, probably from northeast Connecticut. Artwork included an oil on canvas by H.A. Mills titled “Sugar Camp,” which had been purchased at auction about 20 years ago. Mounted in its original gilt three-step molding frame, it measured 48 by 34½ inches. “We also sold some very good smalls,” added Krainin. “I thought the show was very upbeat and we ended the year on a positive note.”
A pair of large framed wallpaper panels dating to the early Nineteenth Century, each measuring about 64 inches, was the main attraction at Lucinda & Michael Seward, Pittsford, Vt. “We sold a large theorem of fruit, a rare large stoneware double-handled jug with a basket of flowers, a large portrait of a beautiful lady, several pieces of furniture and some jewelry,” said Lucinda Seward, enumerating a well-rounded group of merchandise. “We could see that shoppers were being careful with their dollars, but what can you do? We have to keep those balls in the air.”
Certainly one of the biggest draws to the show during this time of year is antique and vintage Christmas ornaments. Beverly Weir-Longacre is always so busy selling these ornaments that, like Santa, she needs a helper †this year, in the person of New Jerseyian Andee Beyres, who toted up shoppers’ purchases, freeing up the Marlborough, N.H., dealer to assist customers and answer questions. Weir-Longacre sold more than 150 ornaments from the eight trees she had set up in the booth, along with three feather trees and various Christmas accessories. She reported that her sales were up from last year.
Her husband, Tom Longacre, was overseeing the antiques side of the booth, which showcased a great folky tugboat model, complete with painted sea base. From the Buffalo, N.Y., area and dating from the 1930s, the boat was completely hand conceived and made. Said Longacre, “With the state of the economy today, we now set realistic expectations for show results and we did meet them this year. Conversing with the customer is essential for completing sales. Most people seem to study the pieces very carefully, evaluate the cost and come back later in the day after much thought to make their decisions.”
Some dealers respond by bringing a variety of merchandise in many categories. Such is the case with William and Teresa Kurau, Lampeter, Penn., whose showcases typically brim with historical Staffordshire and rare collector’s items. Among these treasures was an English Staffordshire medallion plate made for the American market depicting George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette and Governor Clinton, dated 1824. There were many War of 1812 pitchers, including a standout example with “Arms of the United States” and “Free Trade & Sailors’ Rights” emblazoned on the transfer, circa 1815′0. “We sold some very nice Currier & Ives lithographs, a Liverpool punch bowl with George Washington and other historical transfers, some blue Staffordshire and other Anglo American ceramics,” said Bill Kurau. “The Wilton shows have always been good for us.”
Conversely, Bennington pottery specialists Charles and Barbara Adams of South Yarmouth, Mass., said they came to this show not knowing what would be in store for them. “However, we did better than expected,” they said. “We did cover all expenses and came home with a small profit! We also purchased several items for future shows. Just because shows are slow, now is not the time to stop buying! It is very important to have new and fresh material each time you show.”
The Adamses also found a rare swing-handled cheese basket that they intend to keep for now. Their sales included several bottle brush trees and ornaments from their Christmas corner, wooden gold letters, a South Paris, Maine, sled with beautiful decoration and original stamp, a child’s skis, several pieces of Bennington pottery, a folk art hand and an early child’s toy horse.
For antique maps and prints specialist Maile Allen, the focus of some special items she brought to the show was the young “Big Apple” †early street maps of the city that portrayed a familiar if much changed urban landscape. These included a pocket book of New York City by W. Hooker printed in 1826 and sold by A.T. Goodrich. The trifold map inside, which the Colonia, N.J., dealer opened gingerly to display due to its fragile condition, retained beautiful colors. Another large book of early city maps contained a 1902 example showing the old New York Baseball Club, predating both Yankee Stadiums, as well as the old Polo Grounds.
Displaying decorative arts as used in early America, 1650‱840, Hollis Brodrick and Sharon Platt filled their space †the Antiquarium †with many such items displayed with furniture, including a set of six paint decorated early Nineteenth Century Windsor chairs, a one-drawer blanket chest in dry original painted surface and a small American gaming table, circa 1820, in original red paint. An unassuming Chinese Export coffee cup in one corner of the booth carried an interesting history related by Brodrick. Carrying the likeness of John Wilkes, an English radical, journalist and politician who became somewhat of an American hero, the cup was dated circa 1763.
Willington, Conn., dealers Penny and Ron Dionne came to the show with a wonderful example of a sailboat weathervane, circa 1870, with dark mustard surface and colorful flags, an early Twentieth Century wood and metal weathervane in the form of a four-masted schooner, attributed to Frank Adams of Martha’s Vineyard, and a stretcher base Pennsylvania cherry tavern table with one drawer, circa 1780, among other items.
Nineteenth Century American artist Thomas Chambers is known for his atmospheric landscapes and marine scenes handled in a naïve or primitive style with bold colors and rhythmic shapes. Not attributed to this artist, but much like his vital and lively work were a pair of folk Hudson River School paintings shown by Joan R. Brownstein of Newbury, Mass. Her partner, Peter Eaton, brought standout pieces of early American furniture, such as a Chippendale four-drawer chest in strong tiger maple with deep, rich color. Craftsmanship shone through with its fully developed bracket base and it was signed on the back in period chalk “J. Davis, Portsmouth, N.H.”
Brought down from Newcastle, Maine, by Tom Jewett and Charles Berdan was a rare miniature document box, circa 1820, featuring an endearing off-center decoration and the initials “A.H.” on the lid. The dealers also showed an early New York state vinegar decorated box, circa 1835, which they sold, along with a watercolor of birds and a theorem, among several smalls. A sold tag appeared early in the day on a pair of country store tea bins, circa 1880‹0. Echoing Weinblatt, Jewett said, “It was a good show, and a good show in this economy is the new great show.”
Similarly, a sold tag fluttered from an early candlestand with original molded top and great surface at Joseph Martin, Brownington, Vt. The dealer also offered a stretcher base tavern table in pine with original red paint and surface and featuring breadboard ends from the mid- to late Eighteenth Century. Early portraits by an unknown artist of two Bard family members from Milton, N.H., circa mid-1830s, were notable for their period paint decorated frames.
For English, French and American high country antiques, shoppers know to look for Poverty Hollow Enterprises. Dealer Bob Baker of Stamford, Conn., puts it all together into a pleasing mix of furniture, paintings, garden ornaments and accessories. For this show, he had an American mahogany table, circa 1880, with a 52-inch diameter, and around it he had placed four English fruitwood chairs †there were also two matching arm chairs. A French 1930s settee in blue fabric and French bamboo coat racks, hat racks and mirror were getting attention, and artwork included a charming oil on canvas landscape by Martin S. Rasmussen (Danish, 1883‱971), a self-taught artist who grew up around Copenhagen’s Deer Park area and painted mostly large trees, small lakes and grazing animals.
Baker managed to sell a number of small items that were being purchased as gifts to family and friends. “There were several who bought items for themselves, stating that they simply needed a lift,” said the dealer, and such items included silver and glass and ceramics, trays, crystal, Staffordshire, small paintings, a pair of lamps and a Twentieth Century stool. “One fellow bought a staddle stone for his garden,” said Baker, adding after the show that he had also sold a dining table on a callback.
Gone before the show even opened †by virtue of preshow advertising †a large (4 by 4 feet) Kandinski-like painting, dated 1984, left a big hole in Jim Richardson’s already minimalist booth. Unlike some exhibitors, the Westport, Conn., dealer does not cram his booth with merchandise, but the few objects that he does show have strong “personalities.” That was manifest in the well-articulated molding of the Harris horse weathervane from the late Nineteenth Century, as well as a primitive winter scene by “W.H.S.” that depicted a home, sledding children and barnyard fowl. More commanding than cute was the preternatural gaze of a cat in a shoe painting dated February 22, 1884, an oil on board that was signed on the back not by the artist’s name, but a humble legend, “first effort.”
Gould said that she looks forward to making it all happen again next year. For information, 203-762-3525 or www.wiltonhistorical.org .
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