Published: April 22, 2008
Show patrons were exhorted to “Renew †Recycle †Redecorate” when the annual Bedford Spring Antiques Show, celebrating its 23rd anniversary as St Matthew’s Church’s main fundraiser, got underway at the Rippowam Cisqua School on April 5. The two-day show, featuring 28 exhibitors, offered its customary well-selected mix of antiques, fine and decorative arts with the thematic twist of presenting antiques as the “ultimate recyclable.”
The gala champagne preview party, as always, conducted the night before the show opened to the public, was well-attended, a polished product of synchronized energy evinced by show committee members, parish volunteers and confirmands, all led by show chair Missy Renwick and show manager Michael Jackson.
A telling sign of the times †and an underscoring of the show’s theme †came early when the school’s overhead sodium lights were turned off in favor of the softer glow of booth lights (some dealers even used compact fluorescent bulbs in their lighting displays). A dealer was overheard muttering that the lighting scheme for his booth, which he had painstakingly tweaked while the overheads were still lit, now was put awry, with many of his furniture pieces in shadow. Show manager Jackson was insistent, however. “The [overhead] lights go off at 5:45 pm on Friday and don’t go back on again until 4:45 pm on Sunday,” he decreed.
Jackson added about eight new exhibitors to this year’s show, replacing about the same number of nonreturning dealers. For the past three or four years, the event has comfortably accommodated about 30 booths, and most dealers have been pleased with the added space the two gymnasiums afford.
“Going green” with antiques was at its most literal at the Elemental Garden, a Woodbury, Conn.-based purveyor of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century garden ornaments and furnishings. Overseen by Tracey Young and Denny Kaylor, the firm’s showstopper was a heavily lichened teak bench from the 1940s. “Nature’s reclaiming it,” exclaimed Kaylor to the folks giving it a keen examination. Sourced from an estate in Connecticut, the bench had developed its fungal patina from having been placed beneath a wisteria arbor for about 30 years, according to Young.
The dealers sold a combination of garden and decorative pieces, particularly Nineteenth Century lighting, over the weekend. “We had a great time at the Bedford show, which is always a very beautiful show and exceptionally well-run and produced by Michael Jackson,” they said. “The care that the committee takes to lavish on the dealers is always wonderful, and this year we were treated to three days of an enormous and free homemade buffet lunch.”
Particularly impressed with the numbers of younger buyers †always a welcome sign for antiques dealers †the dealers added, “We saw a large number of ‘brown furniture’ pieces leave the floor, which pleasantly surprised us.”
Fine art dealers Joel Fletcher and John Copenhaver returned to the show with a trove of about 35 works they had recently acquired from the estate of Henry Livingston Hillyer (1840‱886), who studied landscape painting with Aaron Shattuck and was much influenced by the Hudson River School of landscape painting. Although mostly small in size, the paintings were expansive in subject matter, with rolling hills, broad farmlands and sylvan glades and rivers. One of the largest Hillyer examples on view was “Wooded Landscape,” an oil on board signed with a monogram, lower left, and dated “76,” measuring 117/8 by 20 inches.
Another standout in the booth was an animated painting of the St Lazare railway station in Paris by French artist Roger Bertin (1915′003), a painter of landscapes, urban scenes and animals. Priced at $19,500, the lively oil on canvas measured 25½ by 37 inches.
“The Bedford show turned out very well for us,” said Fletcher, contacted afterward at home in Fredericksburg, Va. “Our biggest sale was the Roger Bertin oil of the Gare St Lazare; other notable sales were a drawing by Alix Aymé and a New Jersey beach scene by Rachel Sutton.”
Silver dealer Spencer Marks, Southampton, Mass., can always be counted on to bring a tour de force piece with which to beckon showgoers into his gleaming booth of antique silver. Foregoing a glass showcase for it, the dealer presented a neoclassical soup tureen, circa 1810, the lid retaining its original liner, and the rarely surviving stand upon which it rested added a whole other dimension.
Show newcomers Tom and Susan Libby assembled a colorful selection of art pottery and porcelain. Their business, Cannondale Antiques of Wilton, Conn., has as one of its focuses Japanese Awaji pottery, pieces that were made on the Japanese island of the same name between 1830 and 1939. With its common feature a brilliant saturated color, the robust, mostly hand-thrown pottery comes in a variety of shapes and decorative techniques. The Libbys devoted one group of display shelves to a selection of monochrome forest green pieces, including an opposing pair of dragon vases, circa 1910′0.
“We were very impressed with both the selection of dealers, and the knowledgeable and friendly crowd,” said Tom Libby. “We had an interesting purchase from an extremely enthusiastic new client from Bedford. She bought a vase for her mother who has an extensive Japanese collection, as well as a ‘first piece’ for her own collection. She commented that she had a large collection of earlier Japanese blue and white, and that the Awaji monochromes would be a nice addition/transition for her. She thought they would nicely complement the older, more traditional pieces, and is interested in starting a collection of Awaji.”
Also new to Bedford was Gail Ensinger, a dealer in Nineteenth Century Continental and Chinese furniture from Surfside Beach, S.C. To the show’s theme, Ensinger added a fourth “R” †rescue. Acupuncture figures that had been reclaimed prior to the flooding by the Three Gorges Dam in China were flying out of her booth almost as fast as she could write sales slips and wrap them up. The male and female figures, virtually unknown in the West, she explained, are used by doctors in hospitals for accuracy. “The flooding of the Yangtze River, creating a lake 650 miles long and displacing 140 million people, has created an opportunity to get things in the West that normally would never leave China,” she said. “They are carved from a single trunk of wood, then gessoed and painted.”
Ensinger said that the most interest was shown for offbeat items †”our architectural things like marble statues, window shutters and lamps made from balcony railings, all removed from buildings and sacred gardens prior to the flooding. The opportunity to own some of these items is now , as everything is being removed prior to the flooding.”
“Repurposing” antiques into useful and decorative items is a niche business for Donald Rich of New Canaan, Conn. Among his more traditional Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century English and Continental furniture, Rich was showing mash-ups that included an English Nineteenth Century lap desk on a cushion stand, an antique inlaid tray of yew, satinwood and mahogany on a custom stand and a Chinese charger inset into a custom stand. Rich said he uses a New Hampshire woodworker for the custom work, but declined to name him.
More mainstream antiques †neoclassical, Federal and Empire pieces, as well as a large selection of decorative boxes †were being offered by show newcomer David Beauchamp, Brookline, N.H. A New York City tall case clock, circa 1800s, with the maker’s name intact, original mechanism and face plate was a highlight.
“What sold was across the board, from paintings to furniture to my clock to a New York City couple,” said Beauchamp. “A walnut chest left, also. I even sold my famous flower arrangements that are at all my shows. This is a well-run show with a good staff, good committee and great location. Since I was on the short list, I was honored to be a exhibitor at this spring show and look forward to returning.”
Another traditional Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century furniture, fine and decorative arts dealer new to the show was Essex Antiquarians, Essex, Mass. A showcase full of tortoiseshell items, mostly Nineteenth Century snuff boxes, small trays and other decorative items, was being shown by dealers Tony Scorpio and Rick Bevilacqua. A Nineteenth Century Spode supper set in original mahogany tray included four covered serving dishes and one covered center bowl.
Observed Bevilacqua, “People who [came to the show] seemed to be looking for things that they needed, rather than collectors looking to expand their collections.” He sold a painting in the last five minutes of the show to a decorator who had to take it to her client’s home for approval. “The call came about an hour into packout †it worked! Show had a happy ending,” he said.
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