It is safe to say that avid gardeners and collectors of antique garden furniture and other objects that complement an outdoor setting look forward to the Antique Garden Furniture Show & Sale held annually at The New York Botanical Garden. Really, it is not to be missed.
For two days, tons of carved and cast stone, wooden furniture, zinc statues, marble carvings and table tops, and all manner of cast iron, are either lugged or fork-lifted into the large tent where 35 antiques dealers stack and arrange these objects to offer for sale.
Meanwhile, in an adjoining tent, the staff of the botanical garden is busy setting up tables laden with all kinds of rare and desirable plants, making ready to tempt every gardener who walks into the show. In fact, preview night visitors have to go past the plants to reach the dealer exhibits, and it takes some of them a long time and many plant purchases to get there.
The show previewed on Thursday evening, April 28, and continued for the next three days. Mid-afternoon on Thursday, Mother Nature threatened with dark clouds and heavy rains, but the predicted winds did not materialize in force and the skies were clear by the time the guests arrived. And they came in big numbers, filling the tent and angling to get into some of the overcrowded booths.
Catherine Sweeney Singer, director, reported that the show went well for the majority of the exhibitors, and the gate was up ten percent over last year. “We were under a tornado watch a few hours before show’s preview opened, and had plans to evacuate the tent, but fortunately it did not happen and did not seem to have any bearing on attendance that night,” she said. “The dealers worked hard, brought some wonderful things and set up attractive booths, which made for an interesting and well-attended show,” she added.
Linda and Howard Stein of Solebury, Penn., shared a booth with Scott Estepp, Cincinnati, Ohio, and showed a cast iron quarter-round plant stand, French, dating circa 1900, and a cast stone, two-piece birdbath, circa 1930, with fluted bowl. Seated in the bowl of water was a cast stone cat, circa 1950. “That’s an interesting picture hanging over there,” Howard said, pointing out a large oil on board painting of five women planting and maintaining their victory garden. It was dated 1944.
A Grand Tour Neapolitan bronze of a gladiator, circa 1920, was shown on the top of a table in the booth of Michael Trapp of West Cornwall, Conn. Dating from the Nineteenth Century was a large pair of terracotta jars, Italian, on lion paw feet, and a collection of six ulin wood paddles, Borneo, dated circa 1920.
While many of the exhibitors were in new locations this year, due to a revamped floor plan, Barbara Israel Garden Antiques of Katonah, N.Y., held down the same corner booth, where a carved marble figure of a classically robed Hebe, after Bertel Thorvaldsen’s original work of 1811, stood looking out on the people who walked the aisle. It was of Italian origin, circa 1900, and measured 61 inches high and had a 17-inch-diameter base. A pair of composition stone eagles with outstretched wings, perched on large balls, measuring 29 inches high, dated circa 1920, came from England. A zinc dog, American, circa 1890, 27 inches long and 16 inches high, was comfortably stretched out on an American cast iron Gothic-style bench from the Val d’Osne Foundry, France, circa 1870.
An attractive, handmade, tole apple and bird tree planter, fresh from a New England estate, circa 1920, with fine old patina, was against a side wall in the large booth of Judith and James Milne, New York City. A graceful swan planter, cast stone, circa 1950, retained the old original white painted surface, and unusual cast iron silo steps, impressed with the date 1899 and the maker, “Harder,” were put to a new use. “Jim has attached them to the wall and they make wonderful shelves, just wide enough for a doorstop, a plant, or most any other small object,” Judy said.
Dawn Hill, New Preston, Conn., offered a pair of ornate cast iron garden settees in the Renaissance Scroll pattern, American, measuring 44 inches wide, and showed a collection of 11 early lawn sprinklers on a French half-round iron plant stand that retained its original blue paint.
The object that received the most attention in the show was a bronze plant stand, 15 feet long and 5 feet deep, three tiers, circa 1930, that was taken from a Kings Point, Great Neck, N.Y., estate by Bruce Emond of the Village Braider, Plymouth, Mass. It was once installed in a greenhouse/sunroom, with heat pipes running beneath it, and was filled with hundreds of orchids by a famous grower. The entire piece, including the large ends, was decorated with foliage, birds and owls. It truly was a work of art, the talk of the show, and, as dealer Kate Alex said, “It is the best garden thing I have seen in years.”
Other objects in the booth included a wood and iron child’s swing in the original green paint, a pair of cast stone seated dogs, circa 1950, from a Newport estate, and a grouping of 12 small bronze bells mounted on a round cast iron stand that was turned with a handle and probably used to call workers in from the grounds of the estate. It came from the same home as the plant stand and dated circa 1900‱910.
Blithewold Home of Mount Kisco, N.Y., was doing the show for the first time and “it was great for us, with selling on all three days and a very good preview,” Alexandra White, co-partner in the business with Sandra Saiger, said. She noted that they sold two carved wood console tables with marble tops, Italian, late Nineteenth Century with foliate design, a pair of stone reclining lions, a painted wood bench from Belgium, a pair of zinc cattail ornaments and a good number of cast iron figures and decorative watering cans. Taking up the major part of one wall was a large cast iron skeleton clock from a French clock tower, Nineteenth Century. The floor in their corner booth was covered with real turf, with a path of six large stones leading visitors in one side and out the other.
If there was an award for a neat, clean-looking booth, then Mark Morris of Wadsworth, Ohio, would have been the hands-down winner. It was a bit on the sparse side, but every object had its place and could be seen from the aisle. A cast iron foundry crucible with old red painted surface, American, and dating from the early Twentieth Century, was planted and on a pedestal, and against the side wall was a pair of lead gatepost eagles, circa 1910‱920, from a Cleveland estate. A large Eighteenth Century hardwood painted cupboard, Italian, had two paneled doors in the original paint.
Bob and Debbie Withington, York, Maine, had a slightly smaller booth than in the past, but still managed to fill it to capacity with a few things jutting out into the aisles. A nice cast iron sign post, circa 1880, reading “Beech Ave'” and from Lawrence, Mass., stood about 8 feet tall in the corner of the booth. “I saw these signs being bulldozed and then buried, but I was able to get some before all were gone,” Bob said. He added “I have sold about ten so far, have a few left, and it was terrible to see these early sign posts being destroyed and replaced with aluminum ones in a cemetery.”
A Maine attic was the source for a circa 1880, three-story, martin house, complete with nine separate rooms and painted gray and white. In addition to some stone and cast iron urns, Bob showed a pair of French concrete swan planters.
“It was a good show for me, as it generally is,” said Aileen Minor of Centreville, Md., one of the original exhibitors at the garden show 19 years ago. She sold all three days of the show, plus the preview, and sales slips indicated customers from all across the United States, including Texas, South Carolina, Louisiana, Maine, New Hampshire, California, New York and Connecticut. A lady in the field of music bought a set of four, cast iron, lyre back design armchairs, with classical and rococo motifs, and a historian bought a large, sheet metal train weathervane, complete with an engineer and a fine coat of rust.
A cast iron, Zodiac pattern, tilt-top garden table dated from the Nineteenth Century and was from an American foundry. “That table would have been labeled a ‘conservatory’ table in the foundry’s Nineteenth Century catalog,” Aileen said. Across the back of the booth stood four statues, the Four Seasons, carved Italian marble, circa 1900, 46 inches tall and each maiden in classical dress. A pair of cast stone fruit baskets, with pieces of fruit hanging over the sides, were on the original plinths and sold to a South Carolina visitor.
Joseph Stannard Antiques and Design, Norfolk, Conn., offered an Eighteenth Century carved stone putto, artist unknown, of French origin, and a pair of French zinc finials, circa 1830, from a hunting estate, the tag indicating “most likely replacements for stone finials.” An oval jardinière with Eighteenth Century ironwork was the perfect container for either plants or a wine cooler.
Jeffrey Henkel, Pennington, Penn., showed a pair of Art Deco bronze urns, American, early Twentieth Century, with fine patination, and of the same period was a French, carved limestone figure, signed M. Esders, 1920. Dating from the mid-Twentieth Century was an Italian, marble top table with wrought iron base with a bird and musical instrument motif decoration.
“My booth is near the door, and I can tell you that lots of things sold; the porters were busy removing things from the show for loading or shipping,” Joan Bogart of Long Beach, N.Y., said. She added that “this has been my most positive show in a while and selling was good, even with some last-minute buying on Sunday afternoon.” A Gothic pergola, in white paint and dating from the early Twentieth Century was at the back of the booth, enclosing a cast stone statue. Both pieces were from Kenjockety and the statue sold. Also finding new homes were a set of six shell and seashell-design pieces of outdoor furniture, including two armchairs and four benches, a large frog sprinkler, a lemon tree and two sets of cast iron garden furniture, as well as a selection of smalls. “And, I still have a few logs in the fire,” Joan added. Not sold was a cast iron signed Fiske fountain and pan, “Boy with Boot,” in perfect working order. “Years ago these fountains decorated many town squares,” she said.
“People are starting to buy a little more freely than in the past several years,” one exhibitor said, and hopefully the garden show is a good barometer for the antiques business. The hours of The New York Botanical Garden coincide with the show hours, so a visit is a double treat.