Published: November 16, 2021
Review and Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
WILMINGTON, DEL. – Attending the November 4 opening night preview party at the 58th Annual Delaware Antiques Show – back in person for the first time since the pandemic upended life as we know it – was a bit like going back to school after summer vacation and seeing friends one hadn’t seen in months. The academic metaphor is apt: the show benefits educational programming at Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, which partners with the University of Delaware to offer one of the best curatorial graduate programs in American material culture in the country. Alumni from the Winterthur program typically convene for their annual meetings the weekend of the show and two current Winterthur fellows presented lectures as part of the event’s programming.
Enthusiasm was high among the 61 dealers who participated at the event, which was held at the Chase Center on the Riverfront, November 5-7. Sixteen were making their in-person debut at the show, though some had taken part in the virtual event in 2020, so it was – to continue the scholarly reference – a large freshman class. Joining new Americana dealers were English furniture dealer Gary Sergeant, fine art gallerists Dolan/Maxwell, Schillay Fine Art, Red Fox Fine Art and Gratz Gallery, and Silver Arts by D&R, which trades in objets du vertu and French paintings. Francis Purcell had garden and architectural antiques while Shaia Rugs brought numerous examples for interiors. Philadelphia Print Shop West brought their stock in trade all the way from Denver, and Alan Kaplan at Leo Kaplan offered a strong variety of glass and ceramics.
In a post-covid world – if we can call it that yet – the show looked a little different than it has previously. Masks were required for everyone, and the food and drinks that provide the social focal point of opening night were relegated to the outskirts of the venue. Initially barred from the show floor, eventually the venue relented, and the party atmosphere moved into the show, making it feel a bit more like the days of the past. On a night that typically welcomes well-heeled members of Winterthur’s Collector’s Circle, many prominent faces were notably absent; some dealers said some of their best long-time clients were no-shows during the entire event. Given that many of those collectors fall into an older demographic, it is understandable that many of them may not have wanted to take the risk of traveling.
“I thought the show looked beautiful. I don’t usually say it, but I thought it looked fabulous,” said show manager Diana Bittel, who also takes a booth on the front aisle. While it was not a great selling event for her, she said it generated enough interest to result in sales after it closed.
More than one dealer commended Bittel on putting together a show that replaced retired or recently deceased exhibitors with dealers of comparable material and quality. It was evident that she maintained the character and look of the show, rather than filling available booth space with objects or artwork of a different nature.
Lisa Minardi, Philip Bradley Antiques, proves that you can pull a booth together at the last minute and still do well. When Bittel had a last-minute cancellation, Minardi stepped up with less than a week before the show opened.
“The show went very well for me. I was very glad for the opportunity to be there. I had not signed up for a booth due to Philip being so sick, but there was a last-minute cancellation and Diana Bittel offered me that booth, so I decided to go for it and am so glad I did, although I had only 48 hours to plan my booth! The centerpiece of my booth was the New Jersey desk and bookcase, signed by cabinetmaker Joseph Kimsey in 1791 and made for Jeremiah Wood of Woodbury, N.J. It was accompanied by Wood’s account book in which the purchase of the desk was recorded. Fittingly, the desk’s new home is a private collection in New Jersey. MESDA purchased a sulfur-inlaid tall clock with works by John Fessler of Frederick, Md. I also sold a gate-leg table, a folky bird tree, a painted box and a pair of Canton candlesticks.”
Bob Haneberg, in person for the first time at Delaware, had enough interest on some blue and white platters that they were on hold a few hours into the show. The East Lyme, Conn., dealer was particularly proud of a Chippendale reverse-serpentine blocked-end mahogany chest of drawers that had once belonged to Revolutionary War general John Sullivan. He also pointed out a large scrimshaw panbone that was carved with a scene from the Peru whaling grounds; it was one of just five examples of such large size known and the other four are in museums. After the show, he reported he sold his Porter Family desk and bookcase by Eliphalet Chapin, as well as paintings, scrimshaw, furniture, and other pieces “across the board.” A museum purchased some of the silver he had on hand. He noted sales to both new and existing clients, including some who would fall into the “younger” category. He noted the attendees were knowledgeable and deemed it “a very good show.”
Another show newcomer was Stonington, Conn., dealer, Roberto Freitas, who was showing in Delaware in between shows at Round Top, Texas, and Wethersfield, Conn. He reported sales of a George III mirror, a pier table and some smalls.
“This was my first year participating in the Delaware Show; I felt honored to be included. And what a stunning show it was,” Missouri dealer Sheridan Loyd said. “I managed to pull it off with several sales. However, I did not sell any furniture, only smalls and artwork, which will guide me next year on what to bring. I will be returning next year; the volunteers and staff could not have been more accommodating.”
Kelly Kinzle did not beat around the bush. “I would say it was a good show but not a great show. There weren’t as many people as before, but enough.” The New Oxford, Penn., dealer said he sold a drum, a painting, some watercolors, a little statue, a fire bucket and some fire marks.
New York Americana dealer Frank Levy was across the aisle from Kinzle. “I was very happy with the show. It was remarkable that they could get it together in this environment and it went off without a hitch. I had some good sales, including a hutch table, a very important painted side chair, a needlework picture, a Chippendale chest of drawers and a number of smalls.”
Several red dots were visible in Jim Kilvington’s booth on opening night, including on a birdcage tea table that he sold to an existing client, a Philadelphia Queen Anne candlestand and a pair of Queen Anne cast andirons with brass finials that had provenance to William DuPont. By the time the show closed, he had sold a little English chest to a client who he had not worked with in recent memory and a Chester County Windsor chair to an existing client. New clients bought a pair of Philadelphia chairs. He also sold a stack of hatboxes that had once belonged to Martin Wunsch to a collector in New York State, and a ladderback armchair to an existing client who bought it without coming to the show.
Kilvington observed that many collectors of Pennsylvania furniture he talked to were holding back in anticipation of the upcoming sale of William du Pont’s collection, which will be offered at Sotheby’s in New York in January.
Across the aisle from Kilvington, Elliott and Grace Snyder were also making sales on opening night. Over the course of the show, the South Egremont, Mass.,-based dealers would close the deal on a painted Connecticut highboy, a Connecticut heart and crown chair, an early child’s chair and several smalls, including early German stoneware and some brass pieces. Negotiations on a few items are still ongoing.
When we caught up with Grace after the show, she said “Delaware was OK: not great, not terrible. Part of it was the right people weren’t coming through. Covid didn’t help, there is still hesitancy on some part, but we made sales to a few new clients, which is great.”
Dealers of Southern furniture and decorative arts largely seemed to have done well. Sumpter Priddy said he had a “very acceptable” show, with two pending sales that, if they go through, would upgrade his results. On opening night, Taylor Thistlethwaite sold a Central Virginia sideboard to a new client, a young couple who live near Wilmington. The sideboard relates to a group he has handled in the past. “It had the most amazing proportions – was only 60 inches wide and 41 inches high, with the most figured walnut.” The Middleburg, Va., dealer also sold a banner flag, a red painted bench table, a signal cannon and a group of DuPont gunpowder flasks by the time the show wrapped.
Down the aisle from Thistlethwaite, Alexandria, Va., dealer Christopher Jones sold some tables from Alexandria, a pair of chairs from Annapolis, a Virginia portrait and some Virginia silver. “It was great to get out and see people and catch up with clients we hadn’t seen in almost two years. This was my first in-person show, and while it was a good show, it was not a barn-burner,” he said, noting that he felt collectors were “slowly getting back into the swing of things.” His sales were split fairly evenly between new and existing customers.
Michael Corbett, Federalist Antiques, is one of the few Midwest dealers at the show and brings Americana all the way from Kenilworth, Ill. One of his show-stopping pieces was an Amish linsey-woolsey pimento red and forest green quilted coverlet with eight-point stars and patterned chintz backing. It was done in the early Nineteenth Century and been in the same family until he acquired it.
“For me, it was a very good show,” Classical decorative arts dealer Charles Clark said. He admitted that “Classical has never been the mainstream but for the people who like it, they collect it and the market is just fine. There was really good interest and the crowds, if they were off a bit, was made up for by the enthusiasm of those who were there.” Sales of Classical pieces made in Boston included an etagere to a client who did not come to the show, a pier table and a small dressing case, while a set of dining chairs made in New York also sold. A pair of Regency candlesticks, some tie backs and a Parian bust of Daniel Webster were also among receipts written by the Woodbury, Conn., dealer.
Gary Sergeant, who also hails from Woodbury, deals in English as well as Americana, Continental and some Asian pieces; for his first time there, he brought a mix of things to his booth. “We did moderately well, but I was very pleased at the connections I made. I am very encouraged by the response and interest,” he said. “I think people were expecting Americana and what I had took people off guard.”
One of the show-stoppers in Sergeant’s booth was a desk and bookcase made by an unidentified cabinetmaker -probably in London – closely following a 1794 design by Thomas Sheraton. The piece, which was all original, had been illustrated in several reference books on English furniture and had provenance to FC Hunter, Esquire and Charles V. Hickox of Gracie Square, N.Y.; it was also accompanied by a 1931 receipt from Arthur Vernay.
Smalls and folk art were popular with buyers throughout the show floor.
Prominently positioned Olde Hope reported sales every day. Ed Hild noted they were “not major sales, but they added up nicely.” Furniture, fraktur, baskets, Pennsylvania accessories and a New England dressing table were among the things he and Patrick Bell wrote up. The New Hope, Penn., dealer observed that there were long lines of showgoers on both Friday and Saturday morning, with many new clients on Sunday.
Hilary Nolan advertised a Colonial Boston Fishing Lady needlework picture in the show catalog and was pleased to find a buyer for it during the preview party. It was signed DM and featured a lady playing the mandolin and gentleman presenting her with flowers. The Falmouth, Mass., dealer also wrote receipts for a green-painted lantern, a tape loom dated 1828, and a wooden salt that had once been in the collection of Roger Bacon.
Ruth Van Tassel, Van Tassel Baumann American Antiques, brought needleworks to help fill the gap in the category left when Amy Finkel and Stephen and Carol Huber opted not to participate. When Van Tassel spoke with Antiques and The Arts Weekly after the show, she said she had made a few sales and was glad she had been asked to do it.
“It was good to have a live show to see people and beautiful antiques again,” Colette Donovan reported via email after the show. “We sold a good amount of textiles at the show: an applique needlework of a shepherd with his sheep, a large petit point still life, a framed Seventeenth Century English tapestry, rugs, coverlets and some lighting and other accessories.”
Ron and Joyce Bassin saw several things leave their booth on opening night, notably a Grenfell mat with sailboat imagery, a pair of decorative painted cattails, an architectural wooden piece, a snake cane and a wooden horse.
“The show turned out well for us; off a little from past years but we expected that,” Tom Jewett said after the show. “We were happy. Diana and the committee do a fantastic job and treat us dealers so well. The show has always been one of the most beautiful shows we do all year long and we really love it.”
The Maine dealer, with partner Charles “Butch” Berdan, sold a Vermont painted six-board blanket chest, a polychrome fruit carving, a rooster weathervane, a good folk winter scene, a miniature chest of drawers, a pair of carved and painted birds, and lots of small objects, with some pending sales as well.
An carved Statue of Liberty by Dan Slaughter with Sandy Jacobs got a lot of interest but “is still searching for her next home.” The Swampscott, Mass., reported selling across the board, to both old and new customers, with an emphasis on jewelry and folk art.
Jeff Tillou seemed to have had a good opening night, selling two weathervanes – one of a fish, the other of a cow – as well as a Chinese export painting depicting a West Indies Native.
Beverly “Bev” Norwood reported a very good show, selling lots of pieces that ranged in value from four to five figures, to both new and previous clients. Among things she and her husband, Doug, sold were a tiger maple desk, a windmill weight, some gameboards, portraits, painted boxes and a fire bucket.
“The show is so beautifully run,” Bev Norwood said. “It has an exquisite look but is very warm and inviting; it hits all the bells and whistles.”
“From a show point of view, it was extremely successful, but it was my first in-person show and I had some anxiety about doing it. I was very happy to get home.” Mo Wasjelfish of Leatherwood Antiques ran through a long list of sales across several different categories. He reported sales to many dealers before the show opened and was busy on every day, reporting Sunday was slightly less busy than the others.
Jasmine and Theirry Doussiere of Silver Arts by D&R were exhibiting at Delaware for the first time and reported back with enthusiasm. “We thought the show looked phenomenal and all the booths gorgeous; we were also very thankful to our antiques dealer colleagues who welcomed us in a truly wonderful way. We were very happy with our sales. All in all, we were very happy with the attendance and very grateful to Jill Abbott and Diana Bittel for the great management, as well as to all the Winterthur volunteers who helped make this show a great success.”
The new exhibitors, who are based in Baltimore, Md., and Marseille, France, had sales of several Eighteenth Century and early Nineteenth French silver pieces, as well as paintings, a pair of gilt bronze and griotte marble covered pots, a pair of Restauration cassolettes, two bronze statues and a terracotta statue of Pan and Apollo.
Alan Kaplan, Leo Kaplan, Inc., said he had been in talks with Bittel about doing the show in 2020 but that was before the pandemic. “In general, when we had our stores in New York City, we did the Ceramics Fair every year and didn’t really look to do shows outside the city. Now that we closed the store, I am looking to do a few shows a year. The show was very good. We made sales every day and I just heard from a collector who couldn’t make the show and they bought four pieces. In general, I sold English Eighteenth Century ceramics, which go hand in hand with American furniture. I still have a number of pieces being considered. Most of my sales were to collectors that I would see at the Ceramic Fair. I did pick up a couple of new people. All I can say was it was nice to be out among people and not sitting on a computer.”
“It was great getting my toes wet again, in my first time (exhibiting in person) since February 2020,” Arlie Sulka said. The proprietor of Lillian Nassau thought the attendance was good, she spoke with a few curators and also made sales to both old and new clients.
Mark McHugh at Spencer Marks was delighted to be back exhibiting in-person, saying “the crowd on the weekend exceeded our expectations. Everyone was thrilled to be out at a show, and many were returning customers whom we haven’t seen for two years. Among the many items sold was a Gale, Wood & Hughes classical coin silver basket, New York City, circa 1840, a Gorham coin silver figural punchbowl, Providence, R.I., 1866-67, a pair of Dominick & Haff sterling wine coasters from New York City from 1888, and a 1971 Henry Petzal modern silver covered jar, made in Shrewsbury, N.J.”
The Kurau family filled a booth in one back corner with a large variety of things. Jonathan Kurau emailed afterwards that they “did have a nice show and were quite pleased with both attendance and sales to both new and existing clients. We sold a nice variety of English Staffordshire ceramics, including historic transferware, children’s gift mugs and mocha. The show was absolutely stunning and filled with all the best antiques in the field. Much gratitude to Winterthur, the promoters, and all of the dealers for putting together such a great event.”
Ron Rumford, director of fine art gallery Dolan/Maxwell, said they sold a 1940 drawing by Stanley William Hayter to an existing client who has two related works they acquired from the gallery. A museum has a Nineteenth Century painting by an African American artist on approval, and other institutions expressed interest in similar material. Other works in the booth prompted conversations with new clients he will be working with.
Schoonover Studios has a prime spot at the entrance of the show, with illustration art flanking both sides of the aisle. Yellow hold tags were spotted early on opening night for “Hunt from the Ship” and “The Big Man Fell.”
Another exhibitor showing at Delaware for the first time was Gratz Gallery & Conservation Studio, which brought a selection of things, including several works by American modernist woman painter Peter Miller (1913-1996). Miller’s brightly colored oils offered a strong contrast with the gilding, brown furniture and painted furniture sprinkled throughout the rest of the show floor.
“We met many new and wonderful people,” Paul Gratz said after the show, noting he felt lucky with how the show had been for him. He sold two works – one by Edward Potthast, the other by David Ellinger – to two new clients. He thought attendance at the show seemed low, which he attributed to lingering concerns for Covid-19.
Another dealer with Miller’s works on offer was Phoenixville, Penn.-based Dixon-Hall Fine Art, which placed a large portrait of a cubist-looking nude standing next to a pedestal on one of the outer walls of its booth.
On opening night, Philadelphia fine art dealer Schwarz Gallery sold two works by John J. Dull and a waterfront view by Constantin Westchiloff (American, b Russia, 1877-1945).
Prior to establishing his independent identity as Philadelphia Print Shop West, Chris Lane previously showed at the Delaware Show with Donald Cresswell as Philadelphia Print Shop. Now that Cresswell is no longer doing shows, Lane asked to participate. He said that while the drive from Denver, Colo., was really long, “the show was very good. [I] sold to old and new clients, but it was especially fun to see a lot of my old clients and friends on the East coast.”
Jewelry was the mainstay in the booth of Johanna Antiques but the Baltimore, Md., dealer also had a carved Canada Goose by R. Madison Mitchell (American, 1901-1993) and an oil painting of a covered bridge by Garnet Jex (American, 1895-1979).
James Robinson was back after an in-person show in 2019 and the 2020 virtual edition. “We did make a few sales, all to new clients, or clients that had not been in in some time. We thought the show was a very enjoyable experience and look forward to participating again next year.”
Steven Chait said he and brother Andrew “did pretty well. We’re pretty pleased. People were happy to be back in person and business was done. It was well worth it.” The Chinese works of art dealers sold porcelain and vases as well as an important pair of Tang pottery figures, largely to existing clients.
The only exhibitor in the show who trades exclusively in Native American works was Marcy Burns, in her usual corner booth near the front in the large room. When we caught up with her after the show, she said she had had a good show, selling lots of beadwork, with interest in textiles, baskets and pottery as well.
The 2022 edition of the Delaware Antiques Show will likely take place November 4-6. For more information, www.winterthur.org/programs-and-events.
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