Published: November 22, 2022
Review & Onsite Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
WILMINGTON, DEL. – After a couple of years of taking place on the first weekend in November, the Delaware Antiques Show, the annual powerhouse fundraiser for Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, resumed its traditional place in the calendar, retaking Veteran’s Day weekend, November 11-13. The Chase Center on the Riverfront hosted 61 dealers of antiques, fine, folk and decorative arts and jewelry, who in turn welcomed shoppers beginning with a gala preview party the evening of Thursday, November 10.
The signs of active selling were noted early, with red dots and gaps in booth presentation throughout the show’s floor from the start of the preview party. Attendance was largely characterized by most dealers as good – but not great – with several noting that many of their “regular” customers who always attend were no-shows.
Show manager Diana Bittel thought the show “was absolutely beautiful. I had fabulous dealers and I did some business, though I was a little disappointed. I think attendance was pretty much on par with where it usually is. [Winterthur] goes the extra nine yards for the dealers.”
Several exceptional things were in Bittel’s booth, including a New England chest on chest and a Connecticut figured cherrywood chest on chest, both of which had provenance to the late Connecticut dealer, Peter Tillou. Smalls included a New York harbor needlework and two bone watch hutches. A pair of large pottery Great Danes that dated to the 1940s guarded the Bryn Mawr dealer’s booth.
A few new faces were among the dealers on hand, including David Brooker, James Kochan, Jayne Thompson and Avery Galleries.
“The show brings back memories of all the old antiques shows I did when I was first in America,” reminisced David Brooker when we stopped by on opening night. His booth heavily favored landscapes and paintings of animals, and after the show, he said he sold nine paintings at the show, four or five of animals. He said buyers – all of which were new to him – were from all over, including South Carolina and Philadelphia. Overall, he characterized the show as “very good.”
According to Wiscasset, Maine, dealer James Kochan, “it was a great show.” He said he sold two important paintings, a pair of Revolutionary War silver camp cups that once belonged to Col. Anthony Walton White to the Anderson House Museum of the Society of the Cincinnati and a number of smalls, with institutional interest in two other paintings. “I thought the show was overall of very high quality and beautiful and well organized. I was very happy to do Delaware; it’s the best Americana show.”
Nicole Amorosa, managing director at Avery Galleries reported sales of two paintings, a seascape by William Edward Norton (American, 1843-1916) and a French landscape by Arthur Beecher Carles (American, 1882-1952). For the gallery’s first year at the show, she thought it was “very good. People really liked the [Walter Elmer] Schofield (American, 1867-1944) we had, and the two dog hunting scenes by [Percival Leonard] Rousseau (American, 1859-1937) got a lot of attention.”
“It was the best Delaware show I’ve had in a decade, despite the fact that I didn’t see half of the regular people I usually see there,” declared Peter Eaton, who was encouraged at the strength in the market. “Overall, I think the attendance was good. Some dealers were frustrated they didn’t sell more, but I was surprised – and pleased – at how many New England dealers did well.”
The list of sales Eaton rattled off included a Queen Anne highboy and Connecticut tall clock, both of which he sold on the last day of the show, a sawbuck table that sold on opening night, a set of six chairs, two portraits and some smalls he described as “odds and ends.” Sales of largely Pennsylvania and mid-Atlantic things were to both new clients and old clients, as well as ones who have not purchased from him recently.
Grace and Elliott Snyder were as enthusiastic as Eaton, making several sales on opening night and tallying a total of 25 sold tags by the time the show closed.
“It was excellent, one of the best Delaware shows we’ve ever had! Sales were across the board, mostly very early material, including some very good American furniture.” Grace reported prices ranged from about $3,000 to $13,000 for a variety of things that included a redware platter, an Eighteenth Century spoon board, a William and Mary gateleg table, an early Eighteenth Century ball-foot blanket chest from Newburyport, Mass., candlesticks, American portraits and a jester-form brass finial. Most of their sales were to other dealers and collectors, including a few new clients. I find it to be the most academic and knowledgeable crowd; that has always distinguished the Delaware show.”
Ashland, Va., dealer, Sumpter Priddy III, found a new home for a Virginia carved black walnut library table with Gothic designs that presided over the front of his booth, as well as “The Silver Mirror” by Louis Jackson, a 1909 work that had been exhibited at Harvard College that hung in the center of his back wall.
Across the aisle from Priddy, Ed Hild and Pat Bell of Olde Hope, had several noteworthy objects, including two circa 1840 shirred rugs with dogs, a flying mallard hen attributed to Gus Wilson, a Berks County chest over drawers, a portrait of a young boy with a dog by Ammi Phillips, an Arabian horse weathervane, a lift-top chest over drawer that was possibly from Vermont, a Windsor settee with original salmon paint decoration and a painting of the schooner King Bird by James Bard.
After the show, Ed Hild said they felt it was “overall, a good show and great to make contact with so many people. For us, furniture sales were weak, but we made a fair number of sales, the majority of which were small.” Fraktur, redware, painted bowls and a “great” optician sign were among the sales he reported, most of which went to existing clients, including “many we hadn’t seen in a while. We had some people come in from a long distance who aren’t always there, who think this is their favorite show for Americana. People appreciate the high quality among all the dealers and there’s a nice variety of offerings.”
If furniture sales were weak with Olde Hope, its neighbor at the show – New Oxford, Penn., dealer Kelly Kinzle – sold only furniture and no smalls. He was exhibiting for the first time a “running deer” flintlock rifle from the Lower Schuylkill Valley, circa 1760-70, which was front and center and featured an applied brass running deer on the stock. “There was a lot of interest in it – nothing solid – but anyone who knew what it was were just amazed.”
On the wall were Charles Peale Polk’s (American, 1767-1822) portraits of Margaret Baker Brisco and Gerard Brisco, Frederick, Va., circa 1789, also got enough interest that when we caught up with Kinzle after the show, he said they were on hold. Sales were to both new and existing customers.
Frank Levy, Levy Galleries, sold a pair of Staffordshire pottery turkeys, circa 1825, that had been illustrated in Jonathan Horne’s English Pottery and Related Works of Art (2001), as well as a circa 1840 American School oil on tin painting of City Hall and Broadway.
“It was OK, not one of our best,” said Arthur Liverant. “I think that people are distracted by what’s going on in the world. Attendance was very good, but people were not coming in with great enthusiasm. They talked about how long it’s been since they have been comfortable being with people and how things are looking up. Collectors loved being at the show and the market, and interest in the history of America is still very strong.”
“I had a very good show,” Taylor Thistlethwaite said. “What was unusual is that Delaware is where I usually sell a lot of furniture; this year, it was all about the paintings and smalls. Interest was still there; the crowds were great, and a lot of people did a lot of business. I sold a bust of George Washington, a pair of fox bronzes and a cat painting to Jeff and Bev Evans. All of my sales were to new collectors, except one.” Another sale the Virginia dealer considered one of the show’s highlights was a pair of squirrel-form andirons made in 1938 by William Ball of Ball & Ball. He had acquired them prior to the show from another dealer and sold them on opening night.
Greenville, Del., dealer Jim Kilvington was offering for the first time a George II parcel-gilt side chair made by Giles Grendey; it was front and center in his booth. He wrote up several things on opening night, including a George III dining chair, a George III hanging cupboard, a chalkware garniture, a tri-corner hanging wall sconce and a Lancaster, Penn., linen and silk sampler worked by Hanna Trout in 1841.
Kilvington was upbeat afterwards. “The crowd was a little bit off, I think because of Covid. A lot of people I sent cards to didn’t come, but people were buying. I sold maybe 20 things, mostly small. One thing that is in the works that would be a substantial thing if it goes through would be to new clients, but the bulk went to established ones.”
West Chester, Penn., dealer Skip Chalfant had a good selection of American paintings that presented well alongside the furniture that is his stock in trade. Artists represented included Carl Lawless, Charles Morris Young, Antonio Martino, Cullen Yates, Levi Wells Prentice, George Cope and James H. Beard.
Lisa Minardi, Philip Bradley Antiques, also reported a good show. “I sold a rare watercolor of Noah’s Ark attributed to John Landis of Lancaster County, Penn., circa 1840 during the opening night to folk art collectors. I still have two more watercolors and an oil painting by Landis, who mostly painted religious scenes. I sold a circa 1695 Philadelphia spice box to a young collector/dealer, Jeffrey Ricketts, for his personal collection. I also sold a utensil tray with a heart-shape cutout, ex collection William K. duPont, and some smalls. I have institutional interest in several pieces, including fraktur, an inlaid Philadelphia card table by Adam Hains and a portrait of Joseph Shippen of Philadelphia by Robert Feke.”
“I had a nice show and made some new connections with collectors for lighting,” observed Woodbury, Conn., based Classical decorative arts dealer, Charles Clark. “The sales included a Boston Classical lolling chair, a Sandwich [glass] hall lantern and a Classical pier mirror. Some of the smaller items sold were a plaster bust of Michelangelo, a French tôle urn and a set of six tiebacks.”
“I bought well, and I sold well,” reported fellow Woodbury dealer, Gary Sergeant. “We sold a really good Chinese export huanghuali harlequin desk, and an incredible carved eagle, that was probably William Rush, to a dealer. We sold some smalls and we’re still working on other things with some clients.”
“I don’t see people jumping to speculate. They’re buying for a need, or if the price is so inexpensive, they can’t pass it up. Buyers are informed; they go online, they watch auctions, they see reported prices. Dealers who were realistic did well. Dealer trading was good, which I think is an important thing.”
Folk art with Ron and Joyce Bassin was moving briskly. Within a couple of hours of the show opening, Bassin had found a new home for a pair of miniature mallards by Wendell Gilley and a Grenfell puffin. When asked what he liked especially, Ron pointed to a model of the tugboat Tacoma and a carved African American lady. Both were made in the first half of the Twentieth Century, and both exhibited what Bassin called “exceptional detail.”
Newcastle, Maine, dealers Tom Jewett and Butch Berdan, headed to another show immediately after Delaware, forwarded their comments from the road.
“The show was very good for us,” Jewett shared. “We sold mostly folk art and holiday, including some high-end Christmas decorations. Some notable sales included a carved and polychrome patriotic plaque with eagle and American flags, a folk art fish sign from New Jersey that is going back to New Jersey. A carved wooden folk art angel, redware and lots of smalls. We also sold our catalog piece, the pastel portrait of a cat, ex Hirschl & Adler and ex Peter Tillou.”
An expensive quilt, a Pennsylvania compass box, two Windsor armchairs, a small English settle, an Eighteenth Century valuables box, two Toby jugs, a stool, and “a lot of ceramics and smalls,” were some of what Stephen Corrigan, Stephen-Douglas Antiques reported selling, to established collectors, dealers on the floor and “a lot of new buyers, all retail. It was the best Delaware show we’ve ever had, by a long shot.”
The Delaware show often features museum-quality works, purposely brought to attract the interest of the many museum curators who attend the show. One such high-caliber piece was the extensive Benjamin Etting Chinese export porcelain dinner service, circa 1810, which was known in the family as the Thistle pattern. Richard Worth, RM Worth Antiques, said some of the rest of the service was at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and he was hoping it would attract the attention of other museums. Another piece Worth had that had been published was a Soap Hollow dower chest that was illustrated in Monroe Fabian’s The Pennsylvania-German Decorated Chest (1978).
Philadelphia fine art dealer Robert Schwarz said the show was “a little slow” for him, selling just two smaller paintings – a landscape and a portrait – to new clients, but he has the potential for follow up.
Garden furniture dealer Barbara Israel had a prime spot in the center of the floor, which she thought was a presentation of “really excellent pieces on all scores.” Within the first few hours of opening night, she had sold three metal crane figures, and a pair of Neoclassical bronze urn finials. Many of her regular customers came to the show but did not buy and most of her sales were to new clients.
The 60th Annual Delaware Antiques Show is scheduled to take place November 10-12, 2023. For additional information, www.winterthur.org/das or 800-448-3883.
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