Published: October 4, 2011
There was finally a touch of fall in the air when the Autumn Hartford Antiques Show got underway on September 17 at the Connecticut Expo Center. For show manager Frank Gaglio of Barn Star Promotions and a steadfast cadre of about 50 dealers, the two-day run of the show †its third year under Barn Star’s aegis †was bittersweet because it marked the last time the show would be staged at this popular venue.
In August, news that the Expo Center, home to Gaglio’s event as well as the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show, was negotiating a sale of the facility stunned the respective show promoters and exhibitors alike and left both events homeless for 2012. It was almost too much for the mind to process, as the fall antiques show in Hartford reaches back into the relative mists of time, having been started more than 50 years ago by storied show promoters Frances Phipps and Betty Forbes; Gaglio had revived the tradition in 2009.
Fortunately, the real estate closing on the deal was scheduled to take place after Barn Star’s September 17‱8 show, so it went on. Rather than an ambitious loan exhibition at the entrance, there was a simple, yet appropriate display of American flags. Inside, participating dealers for the last time in this space assembled tasteful, eye-catching displays, bringing a good sampling of Americana, formal and country furnishings, fine art, folk art, stoneware, Oriental rugs, samplers and smalls.
Some confusion over whether or not the facility’s impending sale would cause the show to be canceled may have lingered, even though show management had been diligent in weeks leading up the event in putting out publicity confirming that the show would take place as scheduled. Timing may have been a factor, too. Last year’s show took place over Halloween weekend; this year it followed on the heels of Brimfield. Whatever the reason, the gate was smaller than usual as the show opened at 10 am, and most dealers agreed that although sales were made over the weekend, traffic was not as robust as they would have liked. Said one dealer about the apparent confusion, “People read, but they don’t comprehend.”
Contacted after the show, Gaglio gave it an “average” mark. “It was not over the top,” he said. “As usual, some dealers did extremely well, some did okay and others did not do well at all. The booth chats were well attended, art sold well and few significant pieces of furniture, too.”
Peter Eaton, the Newbury, Mass., American furniture specialist, sold a Queen Anne tea table in red paint, a two-drawer Connecticut blanket chest with scalloped skirt in original red paint with original brasses, a mahogany transitional side chair with pierced splat and a cherry Queen Anne highboy with shells in both top and bottom sections. He also sold a pair of Eighteenth Century portraits and a single portrait signed “I. Kennedy July 1838.” “While the gate was small, people seemed knowledgeable and responded to things that were priced fairly †based on the new ‘reality,'” he said.
In an adjacent space, Joan Brownstein assembled an arresting display of American folk paintings, including a winsome portrait by Mrs Moses B. Russell (nee Clarissa Peters, 1809‱854) of two children playing with alphabet blocks. The children were portrayed full length in an outdoor setting flanked by a red drape to one side and floral vine on the other. Smaller images by the artist on ivory of the mother and younger child are framed beneath the larger work. A note on the back indicates that the images were found in the Boston area circa 1845‵0.
Brownstein also displayed a New England memorial, circa 1815, depicting a single female figure in a white dress leaning against a large urn-topped plinth. Her face is opaquely painted in stark white with extremely flattened features. The garland of roses she drapes over the tomb is her expression of love against this backdrop of loss. Around her is a willow totally painted with blue leaves, overlapping hills topped with flowers and rows of trees and fence that separate a single house on one side from majestic churches within a unknown city on the other.
Cushing, Maine, dealer Neville Lewis has been selling antique English and American barometers of all types †banjo or wheel, stick, aneroid, marine, pocket and others †for 60 years. He maintains a gallery in Cushing where he displays his vast stock, but also brings a good selection to this show, the rarest this time being a Philadelphia stick barometer by McAllister & Co., circa 1840. Another interesting example was a World War II-era model made for the US Navy in 1940 made of copper so that it would be nonmagnetic.
Along with many stick models, Lewis had one wall devoted to aneroid (Greek for “without liquid”) models of all types. These barometers were invented in 1843 by Lucien Vidie in France and have a mechanical movement to show changes in barometric pressure. Made extensively in France and also in England, many of the earlier mantel models survived without or were separated from their original bases. No worries; Lewis fits them out with modern handsome wooden bases so that they can be proudly displayed †and used †in today’s home.
David and Becky Griffiths of Griffiths Antiques, Forestport, N.Y., said they made four sales during the two-day show. Two early, child-done watercolors in period frames went out with a happy buyer, as did a framed folk art, paper cutout, string-tied dancing man dated February 20, 1851, Concord, N.H., and a wrought iron, heart-shaped trivet with penny feet. “We did have interest in our oil on canvas of a fisherman, but buyers are cautious in this fragile economy,” said the couple.
Antique furniture restoration specialist Gil Tyler sold a major piece from his stand early on in the show, and a Shaker basket of black ash, circa 1860s, went out the door with a repeat client. “I am pleased overall with sales for myself,” he said. “There was some interest in other pieces with promises to phone later.” A furniture gem in Tyler’s booth was a Chippendale side chair by the school of Eliphalet Chapin, structurally untouched, with original surface and the original Eighteenth Century seat upholstery and rosehead nails.
A museum-quality northwest Persian Heriz Serapi rug was front and center among other stellar examples at J. Namnoun Oriental Rug Gallery. The Hartford, Conn., dealer said the 10-by-12-foot rug had been in one family for the better part of a century, and its pristine condition seemed to bear that out. Additional standouts included a Kazak example from the southwest sector of the Caucasus, 1875‱860, measuring 5 by 8 feet and a later example, also Kazak, of the barber pole stripe variety, late Nineteenth Century, measuring 4 by 8 feet.
Americana was the first thing to catch your eye at Paul and Karen Wendhiser’s booth. The Ellington, Conn., dealers, however, also filled a showcase with a pleasing assortment of jewelry, some by Mexican silversmiths, but also classic gold bracelets brooches and earrings. Karen Wendhiser removed a stunning piece from the glass case, a signed Los Castillo sterling necklace with an amethyst quartz stone. She said it was pre-eagle mark, which began in 1949. A furniture highlight was an early Nineteenth Century child’s settle in old green paint, and an interesting small was a Nineteenth Century sailor-made coconut, whalebone and ivory dipper that had a heart design on the bowl.
Nancy Steinbock Vintage Posters sold two American railway posters to a collector visiting from Los Angeles. Both posters were from the 1920s †one for the Southern Pacific to the Great Salt Lake, the other for the Hartford and New Haven Railway. “Overall, we had pleasant visits with customers as well as dealers at the show,” said Nancy Steinbock, who added that she also enjoyed giving a booth chat on “Posters as an Artform.”
Known as one of the nation’s preeminent sources for girlhood embroideries, Stephen and Carol Huber of Old Saybrook, Conn., said they also had an okay show. “We sold several needlework pieces and many copies of our new book, With Needle and Brush ,” said Carol Huber. “We saw a lot of people we knew from Vermont, New Hampshire and Boston area, and importantly had several long conversations with people we had never met before and were very interested in learning more about schoolgirl needlework.”
As for next year’s show, time and place have not yet been determined, although Gaglio stated, “We have narrowed our search for next year’s location and will announce the venue shortly.” For information, www.barnstar.com or 914-474-8552.
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