Published: December 12, 2006
For many in Boston, the annual Ellis Memorial Antiques Show is the place to see and be seen. The antiques show itself draws some of the best dealers in the country, and they bring along choice antiques. This year’s show at the Park Plaza Castle on November 3–5 was well attended and sold stickers blossomed throughout the preview party and continued over the weekend.
Elinor Gordon has been with the Ellis show since the beginning. Her booth, just to the right of the front door, usually overflows with buyers and old friends stopping to greet her, and this year was no exception. Everyone was anxious to see what new Chinese Export porcelain gems she had brought. She did not disappoint.
The Pricketts offered fine Massachusetts furniture to Boston buyers from their booth right at the entrance to the show. A circa 1770 Boston Chippendale mahogany block front chest of drawers had a molded top that followed the contour of the base and retained the original brasses. A nicely proportioned Massachusetts Chippendale mahogany wing chair, circa 1785, sat on square molded legs with stretchers. A Boston or Salem Queen Anne mahogany bonnet top highboy from about 1750 had generous fan carving on the upper and the lower drawers.
The Pricketts also expanded to areas popular with New England collectors. One such example was the Hartford area Chippendale cherry serpentine secretarial desk with a reverse serpentine front that was from about 1785. The other was the imposing (99¼ inches) Baltimore Federal mahogany secretarial desk with satinwood veneer and inlay that had a removable broken arch top. It was made in about 1795.
A pair of New York portraits by John Bradley of Mr and Mrs Wilson Sheldon Butts, circa 1840, was painted with contiguous view of Central Park in the background.
Newport, R.I., dealer William Vareika Fine Arts reclaimed the distinction of offering the most expensive object in the show with the 1874 Martin Johnson Heade painting “Coast of Newport,” a view from Spouting Rock beach. The picture was actually the most expensive ever offered in the history of the Ellis show and was marked simply, “$3.5.” Bill Vareika said the painting had been in a bank collection. He brought along other delectable Newport paintings, including “Sunrise, Portsmouth Light” by William Trost Richards. Five circa 1912 circular panels by Newport artist Howard Gardiner Cushing of “Exotic Nymphs in Bacchanalian Revelry” and a painted clock in working order took up much of one entire wall in the booth.
Dianna Bittel’s booth was arranged tastefully with a careful selection of sailor valentines and handsome English sailor woolies. She also offered fine Bermuda cedar furniture that included a blanket chest with a fanciful carving and two side chairs, and a drop leaf table made between 1670 and 1730.
She said the preview was “one of the best I’ve ever had,” during which she sold a chest-on-chest, two apothecary chests and a fine watercolor.
Ralph M. Chait Galleries, now in its 97th year, enjoyed a busy show. A Kangxi glazed porcelain vase and stand attracted strong interest, as did a famille verte vase decorated with images of men engaged in the “four gentlemanly pursuits” — music, writing, painting and playing weiqi. Other far and away gems included a Ming blue and white porcelain plate, a Chinese Export porcelain water dropper and a pair of Qianlong cloisonné panels with arrangements of precious things.
A particular rarity was a Chinese famille rose porcelain openwork vase and stand from between 1736 and 1795. A large Ferghana Tang horse from the collection of the Countess von Bismarck dominated the booth.
Guy Bush got everyone’s attention with the circa 1920 illuminated and painted tin stars and stripes shield from the Union Pacific Railroad. It hung above a sweet and vibrantly painted Baltimore Sheraton settee from 1815 to 1820.
A circa 1770 Southern Chippendale walnut wing chair was a real prize. The chair was thought to have been made in the Tidewater area. Two Boston pieces of interest were a circa 1710–1720 William and Mary walnut chest with rich burl veneer and an Eighteenth Century Boston tray top tea table with elegant carving.
Bush also had a circa 1760 Connecticut River Valley Queen Anne high chest in cherry wood that had an unusual central inlay of stylized birds. There was also a Rhode Island Chippendale maple chest from about 1790 that had seven graduated drawers.
Four dealers new this year were David & Company, an area purveyor of jewelry that has recently acquired the assets of the bankrupt Boston institution Shreve, Crump & Low; Imperial Fine Books of New York City; Stephen B. O’Brien Jr Fine Arts of Boston; and George Subkoff of Westport, Conn. All appeared to be having a successful show.
Subkoff sold a circa 1810 North Shore Massachusetts chest with quarter fan inlay and ovolo corners during the preview. Not bad for his first year at the Ellis. He offered a standout pair of English Queen Anne chinoiserie armchairs in red lacquer from about 1710. He also offered an Irish George II curved front mahogany secretary from between 1750 and 1760 with a crest made in the form of a Roman ruin. A Venetian tripod table from about 1760 was painted boldly with a chinoiserie scene and attracted a lot of attention. A set of four images of Vesuvius erupting above the Bay of Naples was also of interest.
O’Brien had some early sales of some Frank Benson etchings and a gouache, “Eiders at Play.” He offered a wide range of Benson works, which were well received. Pride of place went to a dowitcher decoy by Shinnecock, N.Y., carver Charles Sumner Bunn, also known as Bill Bowman.
A compelling Queen Anne maple porringer top tea table from between 1750 and 1760 that was probably Connecticut in origin had a beautifully shaped skirt and was a stellar presence in the booth of dealer Jeffrey Tillou. A Massachusetts Queen Anne figured maple flat top highboy with four graduated doors and a shell carved lower drawer was also on offer. A figured maple settee and a wing chair sold early in the show.
The base of a handsome pine cigar store figure of an Indian maiden bore the painted legend, “Segars and Tobacco.” A full-bodied copper cow weathervane with horns and a very full udder had an unusual textured body. A gouache, watercolor and gilt straw image on canvas of the Vienna Town Hall by Austrian artist August Ferdinand Motzer was one of a pair of such images made originally for members of the Austrian nobility. It attracted strong interest.
Manchester, Vt., dealers Carlson and Stevenson had a mahogany veneer over pine chest of drawers with a dramatic double stepped back bank of drawers with an unusual brass plate in the center of the backsplash. A hooked rug depicting a standing leopard was made in about 1864–1890.
Chris Jussel stood in for Georgian Manor dealer Ricky Goytizolo and early on had attached “sold” stickers to several in a selection of Peruvian giltwood mirrors. Jussel reported that Goytizolo, who had surgery earlier in the week, was making continued progress.
Visitors to the booth eyed a circa 1820 English or Anglo Indian mahogany Davenport desk with candle slides and a raised and pierced brass gallery.
Hyland Granby’s booth was filled to the “gun’ls” with the prime maritime antiques that are the hallmark of the Hyannisport gallery. A prime spread-wing eagle carved and painted by John Haley Bellamy in about 1890 whose banner exhorted, “Don’t give up the ship!” shared space with Antonio Jacobsen’s 1891 portrait of the side-wheeler Portland, the flagship of the Portland Steam Packet Company that was lost in the Portland Gale of 1898.
A pine and mahogany paint decorated dovetailed carpenter’s chest from about 1840 was marked “G K S,” and was decorated with an eagle and banner and several American flags.
An imposing pilot house eagle from the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century was painted in a very dark green. A narwhal tusk added a fanciful touch.
A pair of scrimshaw “log” teeth engraved aboard the Timoleon by Nantucket whaleman Josiah Shefield Jr recorded the 1833 voyage. The two teeth are the only known examples from a set of nine from that voyage.
A highly desirable circa 1885 view of the Hudson River from West Point by James E. Buttersworth was not only beautifully painted, but it was an interesting document as well.
Sold stickers adhered early to several marine paintings, including Carl Justus Fedler’s 1879 portrait of the ship Fawn, Jacobsen’s portrait of the steam sail vessel Santiago and a portrait of the American clipper Samuel Lawrence by Samuel Walters or Joseph Heard.
Vose Galleries, now in its 165th year, is a long-respected institution in Boston. Throughout its history the gallery has been a family affair. Twin brothers Terry and Bill, along with Bill’s wife Marcia, have run the gallery since taking over from their father. The new generation is represented by Bill and Marcia’s daughters, Carey and Elizabeth. The Vose family showed the 1886 “A Winter’s Tale of Sprites and Goblins” by Dennis Miller Bunker, a scene of a mother reading to four children. They also brought the 1925 “Chinese Affairs” by Hermann Dudley Murphy.
Carswell Rush Berlin can always be relied upon to deliver really smashing classical American pieces. Pride of place this year went to a carved Philadelphia mahogany cylinder secretary bookcase from about 1830 that was attributed to Quervelle. The piece, which was actually made in three parts, is similar to one acquired recently by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Berlin also showed a pair of American School paintings of the 1812 battle between the USS Constitution and the HMS Guerriere. There was also a circa 1825 Boston classical carved mahogany sofa.
Charles L. Washburne’s booth was a riot of colorful majolica. A most interesting piece was a Minton Blackamoor garden seat from about 1870. There was also an unusual Copeland piece in the form of a monkey riding the back of a tortoise.
Robert Lloyd showed a most impressive circa 1825 silver tankard by New York silversmith Simeon Soumaine. The dealer also brought an entire case of Massachusetts silver, including a selection of porringers by such workers as Joseph Austin of Charlestown and John Burt. He reported “a bunch of sales.”
For information, 617-248-8571 or www.ellisantiques.com.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm