Published: June 11, 2019
Review and Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
CHADDS FORD, PENN. – In this business, it is often said that good weather is bad for indoor antiques shows. This is usually attributed to people foregoing shows to enjoy other out-of-door pursuits, but even when people show up, there is no guarantee that sales will be made. This point was driven home at the 48th annual Brandywine Antiques Show on May 25-27. The Memorial Day holiday weekend got off to a beautiful start with a gorgeous late spring evening preview party. A team of museum volunteers had turned the courtyard and atrium space on all four floors of the museum into a welcoming show venue replete with 25 antiques dealers from as far away as Maine and Ohio. While many dealers observed that attendance seemed to be down, Valerie Logan, the Frolic Weymouth executive director and chief executive officer of the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art refuted that, saying “the attendance over this past holiday weekend was up over last year.”
Logan continued, “The 48th Antiques Show at Brandywine has been another successful event and celebration of the volunteers that host it each Memorial Day weekend. Their enthusiasm, attention to detail and support of every aspect of the show is something we are very proud of. Over the years, this annual fundraiser has greatly benefited the Museum Volunteers’ Purchase Fund and Art Education and Programming. We are grateful to them, to the returning exhibitors, our members and show attendees for supporting this Brandywine tradition.”
The show’s manager, Peter Chillingworth, also confirmed the increase in attendance and said, “Overall, I think the show went well. Like most shows these days, there were a few dealers who did box office stuff, others, the majority had so-so sales, and some did not do well. The museum has been consistent in supporting the show and the show committee extends themselves considerably for the dealers, which is a somewhat unique situation in our business.”
Occupying the first booth inside the courtyard gate were Daniel and Karen Olson, who saw sales throughout the show. Commenting after the show, the Newburgh, N.Y., dealers felt the show had been as successful for them as the previous year, listing sales of a Chippendale ball and claw foot walnut New England dropleaf table with cupids-bow cut corners, an oval top New England Queen Anne tea table, an early Boston highboy, a Connecticut carved ear fan-back Windsor, two early Nineteenth Century Federal mirrors, woodenware, ceramics, baskets, a scalloped hanging shelf, an early New England watercolor and calligraphy piece, two trade signs and a few other things.
Jim Kilvington’s booth was a couple of booths away from the Olson’s booth and he had several interesting things, including a group of three vintage cans of DuPont gunpowder that one might expect would appeal to local collectors, Chadds Ford being so close to where the DuPont families lived in Wilmington. Kilvington brought a pair of early English portraits that he had recently gotten, as well as a late Seventeenth Century Philadelphia cane back side chair and three yellowleg shorebird decoys attributed to Dave “Umbrella” Watson that had descended in the Watson family. The Greenville, Del., dealer sold the Seventeenth Century Philadelphia side chair and a number of small things, including an enormous rye straw basket.
“In the end, I was pleased with the show,” said Michael Weinberg of West Pelham Antiques. “It’s one of my two most favorite annual shows. The environment is great, the staff and the volunteers are great – it’s just a pleasure to do the show. I also find the customers who come to the show to be very engaged; you don’t find that at all at the shows these days.” Weinberg said he sold about 18 things, mostly ceramics but also a good sampler and a pilothouse eagle.
Most of the exhibitors at the show have been participating for years, but two exhibitors were doing the show for the first time. Paul and Connie Polce, Ponzi Antiques in Trumansburg, N.Y., were one of the new exhibitors and occupied the last booth in the courtyard. They had fronted their booth with a ship model accompanied by the diary of the ship’s maker, a group of six Bachelor’s Hall fox hunting prints, a grain-painted sewing box, a pair of Queen Anne painted side chairs and a bright Princess Feather quilt.
One potential concern at antique shows with booths spread out on different levels can be a lack of continuity. This can be a particular challenge when floors are not visible throughout, as is the case with the ground-level floor, which hosted seven dealers in total. Signage within the show seemed better this year than the previous year and several dealers in the lowest show space reported sales.
Tim Brennan and Dave Mouilleseaux, Period to Mod, were right inside the entrance to the ground floor gallery. Brennan, who was not at the show, said it was the best show yet for them at Brandywine. He said that Mouilleseaux sold a pair of sack-back Windsor chairs at set-up, and then a couple who buy from them every year bought the cast iron eagles, a French zinc horse head trade sign and a rare American Classical period mahogany tuckaway table at the preview. During the remainder of the show, the Briarcliff, N.Y., dealer sold the large carved folky lion bas-relief and the set of eight Louis XVI-style chairs.
When asked what one of their best and “freshest” pieces was, Bettina Krainin and Harold Cole pointed out a Seventeenth Century provincial English cupboard with original hardware and surface that was making its show debut. The Woodbury, Conn., dealers later reported a great deal of interest in it, but at press time it had not sold. Krainin characterized the show as “fairly good overall,” reporting “several good sales.”
Mark Allen, Mark and Marjorie Allen Antiques, did not have as good of a show, saying that in the 40 or so years he has been doing this show, this year probably brought in the least amount. He had made only one small sale until the last two hours of the show, when he said he sold $10,000 worth of inventory. When asked to specify sales, the Laconia, N.H., dealer said he had sold metalware and Delft, but no furniture and no paintings, which he said was not uncommon for him.
“All of what I sold could have fit into one, maybe two, shopping bags,” said Steve White, referring to the sales he had of jewelry, early glassware and ceramics. The Skaneateles, N.Y., dealer was back at the show after a brief hiatus and said he almost sold a server at the show and did have some interest in other things from show visitors that he hoped would generate post-show sales.
Ruth Van Tassel, Van Tassel Bauman American Antiques said the show was very good for her, thanks to the sale of a rare figured maple circa 1740 Philadelphia, Savery/Fussell shop, side chair to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The chair had a yoke crest, a rush seat, cabriole legs terminating in trifid feet, and ring and bulge front and side stretchers.
A table just inside the entrance on the first floor was piled high with shrimp cocktail, sushi and smoked salmon, which show visitors congregated around. Taking a momentary break during the preview party to nibble some of the food available, Tucker Frey rattled off a list of sales he had already made that evening, which included a rifle, a pair of Queen Anne candlesticks, some rugs, a box, some rabbits, a stand, a pair of tin sconces and a trade sign. When asked what the secret to his sales was, the Woodbury, Conn., dealer was coy, saying only that he prices things to sell.
Phil Dubey, Dubey’s Art & Antiques, brought a late Ming dynasty censer with gilt highlights that he had recently gotten from an Annapolis, Md., collection. Though he said it got a lot of interest, it did not sell at the show. Dubey reported selling a pair of rare armorial soup plates from the Almendares service and a Nineteenth Century French orrery. He thought that the show was well attended with a lot of interested collectors asking knowledgeable questions.
“All in all, it was another successful Brandywine Show,” Priscilla Boyd Angelos of Boyd’s Antiques commented afterwards. The Flourtown, Penn., dealer was on the second floor of the show and reported 22 sales.
“We had an OK show,” said Joy Ruskin Hanes, and Lee Hanes said, “We only sold smalls – enough of them to make a little money – but there was minimal interest in furniture or things on the wall.” The Old Lyme, Conn., dealers have exhibited there almost from the beginning and said that it has historically been a strong show for them.
Colette Donovan said many people loved her booth, which was on the third floor of the museum. The Merrimacport, Mass., dealer said that while she did not have a great show, she had a lot of interest and was optimistic that post-show sales would come through.
Jean Staufer was another one of the dealers who was making her debut at the show and was also on the third floor. “The museum staff, volunteers and show manager, Peter Chillingworth, made this a delightful experience,” said the Fresno, Ohio, dealer afterwards. Staufer pointed out a pair of double heart and crown chairs as among her favorite things at the show. She remarked afterwards that the chairs had received “much interest and compliments,’ though they did not sell at the show. She was happy to report selling an Eighteenth Century Clarion County Pennsylvania chandelier and a Pennsylvania slip decorated redware plate in mint condition, as well as numerous smalls.
Frank Shaia has the rug monopoly at the show and occupies arguably the largest booth on the third and top floor of the museum’s show space. The Williamsburg, Va., dealer also said sales were down for him but will keep coming back because of the tremendous potential of the show.
Next year, 49th annual Brandywine Antiques Show will take place May 23-25, with a preview party on May 22. For information, www.brandywine.org/museum/events.
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