Published: November 27, 2018
Review and Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
WILMINGTON, DEL. – The 55th Annual Delaware Antiques Show took place in its usual home at the Chase Center November 9-11, with 62 dealers exhibiting a wide range of antiques and fine art to tempt every collector’s palate. The show, which benefits educational programming at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, began with a lavish preview party that was well attended by not only Winterthur curators, staff and students, but also museum patrons, scholars, collectors, dealers and auction house professionals from the immediate area as well as farther afield.
Winterthur is ground zero for the study of American decorative arts. It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of the field lies at Winterthur and the museum throws its full support behind the show. A series of events are scheduled to coincide with the run of the show, including the annual meetings of both the Collector’s Circle of top-tier museum patrons as well as the annual meeting of Winterthur’s alumni association, the Society of Winterthur Fellows. Not only does this achieve critical mass and attendance to the show but lent a spirit of homecoming to the show, which has become one of the last antiques shows to concentrate so heavily on American decorative arts and applicable crossover collecting categories. This year saw particularly strong turnout from Fellows, many of whom are thrilled with the recent appointment of Carol Cadou, who, as a former Winterthur Fellow is one of their own, as the new Charles F. Montgomery director and chief executive officer of Winterthur.
J. Thomas “Tom” Savage, Winterthur’s director of museum affairs, said, “We have incredibly dedicated dealers who know what collectors want and who bring us wonderful things. People have come to know the Delaware Antiques Show as the place for hardcore Americana enthusiasts, where they can also find great European and Asian objects that complement an Americana collection. We have stuck to the core collecting values of Henry Francis du Pont, and we like to think that if he were still alive, he would be first in line for Opening Night.”
Winterthur pulls out all the stops with the preview party, which has a stellar reputation and did not disappoint. There was a line of patrons waiting to get into the show when it opened at 5 pm, but the floor really filled up after 6 pm. Those who bemoan the lack of “young blood” in the field of antiques would be well-advised to attend the preview party, when the current Winterthur Fellows – graduate students in Winterthur’s Program in American Material Culture – turned out en masse and brought not only a youthful spirit to the party but presented an optimistic image of the future of antiques scholarship with their keen interest in the material on the floor and willingness to talk to collectors and dealers alike.
Winterthur Museum provides the material for the annual show exhibition, “In Fine Form: The Striking Silhouette,” which drew on holdings in Winterthur library to demonstrate design and ornamentation source featured throughout the show. On Friday morning, the show’s honorary chair, designer Charlotte Moss, gave a keynote lecture titled “The Pursuit of Beauty: Thirty Years in Design.” After her lecture, Moss was reported to have made purchases from the show floor.
The Decorative Arts Trust sponsored two student lectures presented on Saturday afternoon, the first by Elizabeth Humphrey, who spoke on George Wyon, composition ornament and design books at Winterthur in “The Very Quintessence of Fashion.” Humphrey was followed by “Truths of the Trade: Collecting, Researching, and Exhibiting on Eighteenth Century Atlantic World Cabinet,” presented by R.J. Lara and Alexandra Rosenberg. All three speakers are second-year fellows in the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Program in American Material Culture.
Diana Bittel, Bryn Mawr, Penn., manages the show with handy aplomb, and after the show she said, “It’s a great show and I’m lucky to be involved in it.” Noting that the gate seemed to be as strong as ever, she further commented that the show was gorgeous, and the dealers did a fabulous job. Bittel also praised the staff at Winterthur that help pull the show together, saying the museum bends over backwards to keep everyone happy and it makes a difference. “Winterthur is all in, and it comes across.”
Two dealers did not return this year: the Philadelphia Print Shop and Gemini Antiques. The vacancies they left were filled with Elliott & Grace Snyder, South Egremont, Mass., who had done the show in previous years but were returning after taking a few years off, and Taylor Thistlethwaite, Alexandria, Va., and Glasgow, Ky., who was doing the show for the first time. Dealers at the show were nearly universal in their post-show praise of show. Bev Norwood of Norwoods’ Spirit of America, Timonium, Md., said, “The Delaware Show is extraordinary; truly, a not-to-be-missed annual event for exhibitors and patrons.”
Several dealers reported good sales of furniture, providing perhaps a glimmer of hope for a market that has seen stronger days. James M. Kilvington Inc, Greenville, Del., said that he had sold seven pieces of “brown furniture” and had interest in two additional pieces, while Frank Levy of Bernard & S. Dean Levy, Inc, New York City, said he had sold a Baltimore sideboard table and the pair of chairs in addition to several smalls.
Taylor Thistlethwaite, who also had luck selling furniture, sold a set of six Maryland Chippendale chairs that had once been handled by Milly McGehee and Deanne Levison. In addition to the set of chairs, the dealer said he sold a Campeche chair, a Max Weyl landscape, a pair of patriotic sconces, a tole tray, a signal cannon and an image of George Washington in his military uniform.
Lahaska, Penn., dealer Christopher Rebollo had what Andrew Richmond took to Facebook to proclaim, “probably the best painted Ohio settee extant.” The settee Richmond was referring to was made in Mount Vernon, Ohio, in the chairmaking shop of Daniel McFarland and decorated by McFarland’s nephew Daniel McDowell. McDowell had apprenticed under his uncle and then went into business for himself as a chairmaker and ornamental painter. Richmond helped facilitate the sale of the settee to clients of his in Ohio, so the settee will be returning to its home state.
John Chaski was another dealer to wax enthusiastic about the show, saying, “The Americana market is lucky to have an event as well-oiled as the Delaware Antiques Show… it just keeps getting better.” While it did not sell, the hands-down showstopper of the Camden, Del., dealer’s booth was a painted “one-horse open sleigh” that he said would feature in his family’s Christmas card. Chaski was happy to report that folk art was selling, with sales of a gameboard, a weathervane, a large hooked rug and a bunch of smalls.
There was a good amount of Pennsylvania German folk art on offer throughout the show. Lisa Minardi, Philip Bradley Antiques, Downingtown, Penn., had a group of six fraktur that had been made by three different artists for the Bartholomew family of Bucks County over a span of approximately 40 years. Minardi said it had taken about two years to reunite the group and she hoped the group could stay together. After the show, Bradley said he had “sold a number of items, including a Philadelphia chair, an eagle inlaid stand among others” and was following up on other interest generated by the show.
Peter Eaton and Joan Brownstein, Wiscasset, Maine, made several sales throughout the show, including a William and Mary ball-footed chest of drawers, an inlaid Queen Anne candle stand made by Heman Ellis of Nantucket, a large repousse copper wall decoration, a small early cased courting mirror, a circa 1820-40 collection of 12 miniature blown glass objects, jewelry, candlesticks, and “black” glass bottles.
Needlework continues to be a draw, with both needlework specialist dealers the Hubers, Old Saybrook, Conn., and Amy Finkel, Philadelphia, reporting good interest throughout the show. The most important piece in the Hubers’ booth was a silk and needlework pictorial picture showing Lafayette at Washington’s Tomb at Mount Vernon. Carol Huber said it had received considerable interest during the show, including some institutional interest. Another of the Hubers’ pieces that generated interest was Admiral William Penn’s purse, which was part of a suit of finery he ordered in May of 1660 in preparation for King Charles II’s return to England. The king would later name Pennsylvania in honor of Admiral Penn before he granted it to Penn’s Quaker son, William Penn. Philadelphia collectors Charles Keates and Jay Stiefel were spotted admiring it over the weekend.
Amy Finkel reported the sales of a sampler worked by Betsey Gill at the Sarah Stivours School in Salem, Mass., which had been in the Betty Ring collection and which Finkel featured as her advertisement in the show catalog. Finkel also sold a Rhode Island sampler, a large Ohio sampler, a Lehigh County, Pennsylvania sampler as well as another worked in Pennsylvania by Catherine Earnest.
Many dealers reported stronger sales of smalls than furniture. Sales for Merrimacport, Mass., dealer Colette Donovan included textiles, rare lighting, fireplace equipment and a red sled, among other things, while Norwoods’ Spirit of America, Timonium, Md., said its sales included a “sister pair” of early Nineteenth Century oil on cotton velvet theorems; an early, poignant tree-of-life New England family record; an 1816 scherenschnitte; two New England schoolgirl needleworks; and a pair of cast iron George Washington andirons.
Elliott and Grace Snyder returned to the show after taking a few years off. When reached for comment afterwards, Grace Snyder said that it ended up being a very good show for them, plus they also had some very serious post-show interest. The South Egremont, Mass., dealers sold, among other things, a lot of early candlesticks and iron, and a really good inlaid candle stand from Long Island. “It’s a beautiful show, and we are very happy to be back in Delaware. The show has improved in the five years we’ve been away. The quality and seriousness of the material is great, and the clientele are incredibly knowledgeable. It’s just a wonderful experience.”
Jim and Nancy Glazer said that their most exciting sale was a redware Sgraffito plate with an image of George Washington standing next to a cannon, which they said was a rare image that has not come to market in many years. The Bailey Island, Maine, dealers reported sales of many folk art items and smalls like pen wipes, a paint-decorated child’s dresser as well as a large double arm brass oil lamp.
A patron of George Washington’s Mount Vernon purchased from Barbara Israel, Katonah, N.Y., a cast iron stove figure of George Washington that was once at the Metropolitan Museum for Mount Vernon. Israel also sold a number of stone animals, a large birdbath, a marble bench, a pair of stone dwarves, a jockey figure and some architectural pieces.
Asian art dealer Steven Chait, Ralph M. Chait Galleries, said that from their perspective, the show was very well attended, with engaged and interested patrons. Boston dealer Polly Latham brings Chinese export porcelain made for the American market because she says it always does well at the Delaware show and this year was no exception. Ita Howe, Bethlehem, Penn., sells Chinese porcelains, made in the Sixteenth and early Seventeenth Centuries before export porcelain was made, and said she has a group of customers who come every year and buy, so she also claimed to have a good show. Howe said that Kangxi porcelain is what most of her collectors seek.
Illustration art has enjoyed popularity and market favor for a few years, so it is fitting that the first booth inside the show is that of Schoonover Studios, Ltd, Wilmington, Del. John Schoonover said he had a good show, with a lot of visitors from as far away as Atlanta. By the show’s end, Schoonover had sold seven illustrations by American illustrators, including Howard Pyle, Frank Schoonover, Stanley Arthurs and Clifford Ashley, including a work by Arthurs that Schoonover had featured as the advertisement in the show catalog. He also was pleased to say that he had an unexpected, but very pleasant visit by Clifford Ashley’s niece, Eleanor Ashley Medford.
Schwarz Gallery, Philadelphia, specializes in Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century paintings and several impressive works. These included a pair of Thomas Doughty oil on canvas views of the Fairmount Waterworks that were hung on the left wall of the booth, adjacent to George Beck’s watercolor view of the Schuylkill below the falls, which is shown here in the left corner of the booth. All three of these works were later made into printed views.
Those looking for a little shine had several options to look at among the dealers who brought silver or pewter to the show. One of the show-stopping works with Spencer Marks Ltd, Southampton, Mass., was a Gorham Japanese seven-piece tea service. Dated circa 1906, it was priced at $39,000. In a nod to collectors of local wares, Bette and Melvyn Wolf, Inc, Flint, Mich., advertised an Eighteenth Century 8¾-inch-tall chalice by Johan Heyne of Lancaster, Penn., in the show catalog. When it came to brass, Whitman Antiques, brings the largest inventory, of which the Flourtown, Penn., dealer was keen to point out a rare Eighteenth Century Flemish brass lantern measuring 19 inches with the handle up and priced at $6,500.
Ben Miller from S.J. Shrubsole Antique Silver and Jewelry, New York City, said that interest in American silver, from the Eighteenth to early Twentieth Century, including Art Nouveau and mixed metal pieces, as well as wearable jewelry, is always strong at the Delaware show.
The 2019 Delaware Antiques Show will be November 8-10, with a preview party the evening of November 7. For information, 800-448-3883 or www.winterthur.org/exhibitions-events/events/delaware-antiques-show/.
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