Published: August 30, 2017
Review and Photos by W.A. Demers
MANCHESTER, N.H. – New Hampshire – this writer’s native home – is a tiny state off the beaten track, feisty mostly, shrugging off the nation’s benign neglect – except every four years during US presidential primary season and for one week in early August when collectors, dealers, designers and summer vacationers from nearly every other state and abroad all descend for New Hampshire Antiques Week.
Antiques in Manchester returned for its third year in St Anselm College’s 65,000-square-foot Sullivan Arena on August 9-10, taking up what rink manager Ken Perkins estimated to be about 30,000 square feet. The show, managed by DiSaia Management, marked its sixth year and the third year at this venue, with 68 dealers presenting a beautifully staged selection of American fine and decorative arts, with an emphasis on Americana.
The popularity of Antiques in Manchester, also known as The Collector’s Fair, among the seven shows that run throughout the week is undisputed. There were some 300 people waiting in the arena’s holding area 15 minutes before show opened, with many others lined up outside. Show co-manager Karen DiSaia said she ran out of numbered stickers at 400 as the show opened, so estimated that about 500 swarmed in during the event’s first hour.
“It was so much fun,” said Karen the day following the show’s close. “I had such a great time seeing everyone – dealers, collectors and friends – and on Wednesday, I saw so many new, younger faces. There is something about this week that makes it so special. It’s not just about collecting things, although the things are certainly important. People come to connect with one another, make friendships and share knowledge with people like themselves who have similar passions.” She said that at one point she spoke with a couple from Virginia who had connected with some folks from Ohio online and who now meet up every year to do the shows together.
The event was busy with “tons of sales and a lot of dealers reporting great shows,” said Karen. Attendance was up by about 20 percent on the first day, even more on the second, and credit card transactions were triple what they were in the previous year. “We hit a winning combination this year,” she concluded.
It is widely acknowledged that some dealers save their best objects for this frenetic week. Following is a sampling of the treasures that were on display in roomlike settings.
The operative term for unmolested antiques these days seems to be “in as-descended condition” rather than “as found,” speaking to the increasing scarcity of early examples. Peter Eaton Antiques, Newbury, Mass., had a terrific shoe-footed hutch table that was described as such. The 26¾-inch piece featured a three-board pine top measuring 54 by 39 inches and featured full-length cleats and a soft, worn surface given even more character by shrinkage cracks. Probably from New Hampshire, last quarter of the Eighteenth Century, its shoe feet were oak and its construction was with T-head nails.
On the left side of Eaton’s booth, the dealer staged a rare set of six bowback Windsor chairs featuring sharply creased bows, turned and swelled spindles and with complex side and medial yoke stretcher arrangement. The chairs were nicely discolored from the effect of aged varnish over old yellow over black and red paint. The set was attributed to Boston maker Seaver and Frost, 1790-1810, and had descended directly from the Channing Howe family of Duxbury, Mass.
Eaton’s partner Joan Brownstein devoted her booth to her specialty of early New England portraits, pottery and her own laser-printed photos on acid free paper of folded and draped scarves. Anchoring her display was a striking watercolor portrait of a woman from Troy, N.Y., in full frontal pose, holding a small book. By Ruth and Samuel Shute, circa 1825, the 23-by-28-inch portrait had been once purchased by Edith Halpert for her New York gallery. Brownstein showcased three vessels by renowned New Hampshire potters Mary and Edwin Scheier, including a large jar-shaped work with unusual blue/turquoise color in a pebbled ground, circa 1950; an unusual piece formed as a large cup shape with turquoise undercoat and covered in a dark volcanic glaze, signed and dated 1983; and a classic cup-form vessel in which the concentric line decoration between the figures dominates. This piece was signed and dated 1986.
Lancaster, Penn., dealer Steve Smoot has lately been augmenting his antiques collections with Navajo textiles, and he brought several stunning examples to this show. There was one believed to have come from Crystal Trading Post, about 1915-20, in brown and black with diamond design, all natural wools and colors, measuring 7 feet 6 inches by 4 feet 7½ inches. Other Navajo examples included a woven wool rug with open border, circa 1910-20, and another Crystal rug, circa 1925-30, all wool handspun warp and weft with an unusual design. Among the nontextile items in Smoot’s booth were a New York City 1-gallon bird jug by Lehman and a heavily molded early game board.
While “old show hands” are celebrated, there were some new faces as well. One was Taylor Thistlethwaite, who hails from Alexandria, Va. He related how he approached the DiSaias at the spring Hartford, Conn., show and asked to be included in the summer New Hampshire lineup if space became available. Lo and behold, the dealer’s Southern furniture and other finds were on offer, including a great “Trucking and Jobbing” sign with horses flanking the graphic lettering, a Boston chest of drawers found in Maine and a Queen Anne mirror that he had just acquired. One of the most interesting items in his booth was a quintessentially Southern piece called a “biscuit table,” circa 1870-80, featuring a stone surface that serious biscuit bakers need. “It’s a fun and exciting show,” said Thistlethwaite at setup.
Another first-time dealer, although she has been in business for 35 years, was B. Hannah Daniel Antiques. Athens, Ala., dealer Brenda Daniel and her husband Joe Urbanick filled their booth with an abundance of Southern furniture and smalls, while on an outward-facing sidewall near the show’s entrance they showcased a pair of fire boards that Brenda had had in her Newville, Penn., home featuring folky hand painted trees. These were displayed above an all-original Southern hunt board of South Carolina origin. “You can see the wear from elbows on the top,” said Daniel, explaining that the piece’s two drawers were deep for holding liquor bottles and two central doors opened for other storage. With all pegged construction, the hunt board had traces of blue paint. An apothecary on offer was signed Charles Edson, Chester, Vt., a notable American Civil War surgeon general in the 17th Vermont Infantry.
New to this show but known by folk art aficionados everywhere, Aarne Anton of American Primitive Gallery, New York City, offered prime examples of quirkiness. Included was “Kitty,” one of two “sisters” created by Carl Ibach of Spring City, Minn., sculptures that combine realism with a darker, moodier feeling. “Kitty” stands, legs akimbo in her blue dress, one hand raised – is she waving or raising it in warning? A scarecrow head that Anton found in Michigan may have been made by an African American folk artist, he surmised, because the features are not exaggerated.
A religious revival painting from 1936 showed a revival tent in the foreground of St Louis with “the saved” ascending to be with Jesus, while those not so inclined plod through the cityscape. Anyone hoping to snap up the heart in hand carving from an Odd Fellows lodge in Minnesota, circa 1890s, that Anton had advertised in the show preview section a couple of weeks earlier would be disappointed to learn that the dealer had sold it on the basis of that ad before the show opened. Still, there were many other examples seen elsewhere on the floor.
An expanded floor plan this year allowed for more dealers than last year and among these were Melvyn and Bette Wolf, Flint, Mich., dealers specializing in American antique pewter. “We had been doing the NHADA [New Hampshire Antique Dealers Association] show, but being a tabletop dealer, we need all the surface we can get,” Melvyn explained. “It was 20 feet [here] versus 16 feet, which makes a big difference.” The Wolfs have been collecting since the early 1960s, participated in their first antiques show in 1974 and do about four shows a year. Here they showcase about 400-500 items from their inventory.
Fabulous folk art from a couple of private collections perched in the booth of Steve and Lorraine German. The North Granby, Conn., dealers did not neglect to bring their trademark stoneware, such as a 1-gallon stoneware jug with an incised bird decoration, stamped with the rare Fenton mark and dating to the early Nineteenth Century, but a bald eagle sculpture whose body was made entirely of pine cones and a large carved Great Horned Owl with wonderful details were also getting a lot of attention.
Works of American folk art shown by Steven S. Powers, Brooklyn, N.Y., included a compelling portrait by an anonymous artist, circa 1830, of a young woman with her right hand over one breast and her left hand holding a closed fan and crumpled handkerchief. Symbology abounds in the 26¼-by-36¼-inch portrait, but what does it all mean? Also in the booth, a folk art carved and painted “The Sacred Family” – Mary, Joseph and young Jesus – carved by an Italian American immigrant, circa 1930, and a massive covered ash burl bowl, circa 1780, were on view.
Stretching across the upper length of Hilary and Paulette Nolan’s booth was a large pair of Nantucket oars, 15 feet long, from the life saving station on the island. Hilary said that until recently the oars had been displayed in their Falmouth, Mass., home. A Queen Anne maple oval top table with nice form was from New England, circa 1760-80. An interesting collection of smalls on offer was a set of eight ships captains sculptures carved in 1960 by Armand LaMontagne of North Scituate, R.I. Known for his full-size sculptures of sports notables like Ted Williams and Babe Ruth, LaMontagne created these maritime figures from maple, each with a distinct personality and each bearing a title – Boson, Stay at Home, Pirate, Skipper, Cape Codder, Matey, Gulfer and Salty.
Characterized by Rochester, N.Y., dealer Don Olson as a “little masterwork,” a portrait of a baby attributed to William Matthew Prior, circa 1845, exhibited warm color set off by the remarkable frame that accompanied it for decades in a private collection. Rendered in oil on card, the portrait is of a baby boy holding the requisite riding whip – horses being the primary mode of transportation in those days – framed by colorful draped swags. Symbolizing protection from evil are red corals descending from each sleeve of the boy’s delicate lace-trimmed dress. And it was all about the color in a New England folk art fruit-filled theorem on velvet, circa 1830, with strong composition and bold primary colors. Provenance included Stewart Gregory and Claude and Alvan Bisnoff.
The pinnacle of Jewish folk art in the show was achieved by Samuel Herrup, who displayed an outstanding carved crest, typically found above a Torah ark, featuring two folk art-inspired lions. From Eastern Europe, probably Poland or Ukraine, late Eighteenth/early Nineteenth Century, the lions representing power and authority were often used to support the Tablet of Law in synagogue decoration. The crest measured 47½ by 18 inches. The Sheffield, Mass., dealer also showed a horse and sulky weathervane attributed to Waltham, Mass., maker Jewell & Co., circa 1860, of copper and other metal, its bullet holes repaired and one ear replaced, 13½ by 20 inches. Also known for his selection of redware, Herrup had several examples on offer, including an unusual miniature redware jug with its original lid. It came out of Maine, mid-Nineteenth Century, and measured 5¼ inches high.
A gorgeous rug of an overflowing basket of colorful fruit awaited visitors to Robert Snyder and Judy Wilson’s booth. The Lititz, Penn., dealers had professionally cleaned and mounted the 46-by-29-inch wool and cotton burlap work. Nearby was a five-color polychromed Parcheesi game board, double sided with checkers on the reverse and with a dark green painted band, circa 1900-25. “One of the best twig stands we have ever seen,” was how the dealers described a 30-inch-high example featuring an unusual landscape decorated canvas top.
American sampler specialists Steve and Carol Huber called it “A great show,” a sentiment that was shared by most dealers by the beginning of the second day. Dealers reported multiple sales, with several saying they sold the most expensive things in their booth. Joan Brownstein, for example, sold an important folk portrait and several major pieces of Scheier pottery. The Hubers sold a 1792 New York sampler and an 1821 New Hampshire sampler, along with several others. Elliott and Grace Snyder’s sales included a Massachusetts William and Mary ball-foot blanket chest and a North Shore two-drawer blanket chest in old red.
Ron Bassin of A Bird in Hand Antiques, Florham Park, N.J., made more than 30 sales, including a large painting of salmon he had bought recently, two Grenfell mats, stoneware and a major sandpaper painting of a riverboat. Hilary Nolan sold the Connecticut Queen Anne oval tea table, circa 1770-80, and more. Derik Polito, Kensington, Conn., sold a paint decorated Federal period stand, a pair of Windsor chairs, an apothecary chest and more. Norm Gronnig parted with a large locksmith trade sign and early furniture. He said he had made about 20 sales. Steve Powers, Brooklyn, N.Y., sold an effigy ladle, painted tintypes and other items. Wiscasset, Maine, dealer John Sideli said, “The show certainly met my expectations, and I had some good comments on my own work.” He sold good cloth dolls, candlesticks, early glass, scrimshaw and more.
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