Published: May 13, 2003
The Antique Garden Furniture Show and Sale
By R. Scudder Smith
BRONX, N.Y. — “I wish all antiques shows would have such an active opening,” Mary Sams said as she hustled about the Antique Garden Furniture Show and Sale filling out sales slips and distributing a few more red sold tags. She was there, not in her usual role as owner of Ballyhack Antiques, but as a helper in the booth of Brennan and Mouilleseaux of Pittsford, N.Y.
This show, called by The New York Times “the oldest, most exclusive … garden antiques show in America,” opened with a well-attended preview party on Wednesday evening, April 30, and continued for three days under tent at the Bronx Botanical Gardens. One exhibitor noted, “At one time there were so many people in my booth that the two of us could not field all of the questions they were trying to ask. As a result, we could have lost a number of sales.”
Catherine Sweeney Singer, manager of the show, said that about 800 tickets had been sold for the opening and it appeared most of the exhibitors were doing well. Toward the end of the show, the success rate had not continued for a small number of the dealers. “There are about six dealers who are not doing well,” she said, “while a good number are very pleased with sales.” It seemed to be the general feeling among most of the dealers that business was good, but not up to the standard set last year when things were just about flying out of the tent.
The floor plan this year received some positive attention from Sweeney Singer, who came up with a design to allow more exhibitors under the same size tent. The storage space behind the booths was either eliminated or greatly reduced, making for wider aisles and allowing the rows of booths to be staggered. The end result was positive, creating more visibility for the booths and a move away from the “long aisle” look.
Bob and Debbie Withington of York, Maine, were having a grand show, one that was “better than last year and closing in on our best show ever,” Bob said on Friday, the middle day of the event. He had sold his main piece, a large bronze and brass arbor, circa 1890, made by Gorham Manufacturing Co., Exeter, N.H. A set of cast stone figures of the four seasons, about four feet tall, was standing outside on Friday in the pickup area, as were two marble urns and two console tables. “We sold nothing that hangs on the wall,” Bob said, “just things to be placed about the patio or in the garden.”
From Dayton, Ohio, Mark Morris Home and Garden Collection offered a large copula, copper over wood, circa 1880, of American origin. The piece, about eight feet tall, came from the Humble Oil Company building in Dallas. Measuring about five feet tall was a terra-cotta urn, also American, circa 1890-1920, that was manufactured in five pieces.
Conner-Rosenkranz of New York City had a very simple but striking booth to show off a collection of bronzes. Five pieces were lined up against the back wall of the booth, including a work by Frederick William MacMonnies, “Young Faun with Heron,” 1890, and “The Bather,” circa 1896, by Richard Edwin Brooks. A fountain, titled “Playdays,” 1923-24, was by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth.
The Thompson Studio, Garden Antiques, of Berwyn, Penn., offered a large cast-iron gate, solid panel at the bottom and grillwork on top, painted green and of French origin, circa 1900, along with a set of three Jacobean red sandstone hand carved obelisks. These pieces, originally from a set of four, came from Grafton Hall near Tilston, Cheshire, England.
“Last year was exceptional for us and this year has not quite measured up to it,” Garrett Rowe of The Sugarplum, Wilmot, N.H., said. About 12 pairs of urns left the booth, along with a large assortment of planters and cast stone figures and several benches. Among the pieces remaining on Saturday was a faux bois aviary with stone dove on top, about seven feet tall, circa 1930. A pair of English figural urns, circa 1930, was displayed at the front of the booth.
Fleur of Mount Kisco, N.Y., showed a large pair of zinc finials dating from the late Nineteenth Century, a bronze casting of a deer, French origin, and a metal and gilt clock face, French origin, measuring about six feet in diameter.
Pam and Gene Martine of Greenwich, Conn., offered a French jardinière found in Bourdeaux and measuring about six feet tall, a square double-handled basket on stand crowned with a ceramic dove. The entire piece was decorated with seashells. A pair of beautifully carved Italian marble ornaments from the Dodge estate in New Jersey dated circa 1850.
A zinc figural fountain of a boy holding a calla lily bubbled in the booth of R.T. Facts of Kent Conn. This piece was American, dated from the Nineteenth Century, and retained the original patina. Against the back wall was a pair of iron gates, fan-shaped windows were offered, and a nice pair of rustic American carved limestone benches with acorn finials dated circa 1900.
New to the show this year was painting dealer David Brooker of Woodbury, Conn. Looking around at some of the very heavy objects in his neighbors’ booths, he commented “the heaviest thing I have is that painting of a carved stone garden ornament.” “The Statue on Pedestal in Garden” was by Alexander Jameson, Scottish, oil on canvas, circa 1913. Another oil on canvas showed a flower-filled porch set for an afternoon tea, a work by Belgium artist Joseph Paulwels.
Judith & James Milne of New York City seemed to have cornered the market on French faux bois pieces. Offered was a large round fountain dating from the turn-of-the-century, an arched bridge that Jim Milne said was called a “Frog Bridge,” a tree stump chair, and a bench with planters built into each end. A gated arbor dating from the Nineteenth Century, New York State, was in the booth of Passport, Salisbury, Conn., and inside the arbor was a cast-iron figure of a praying child, French origin, Nineteenth Century, stripped to the original metal surface.
“The show has been great for us and we have reworked our booth a couple of times already,” Howard Stein said Saturday afternoon as he supervised the loading a four-piece rustic set of furniture he had just sold. Several planters and urns, a reverse-painted screen, three pairs of lamps, a limestone bolder with a face carved into it and a good number of other objects accounted for a very good show. Not sold as of Saturday afternoon was a pair of andirons fashioned with large peacocks. “The peacocks were possibly on gate posts at one point in time,” Linda Stein said. A pair of White House cast-iron benches, similar to those in the Rose Garden, dated from the Nineteenth Century and were probably by Schlott Foundry of Birmingham, Ala.
Joseph Stannard of Norfolk, Conn., was new to the show this year and set off his booth with a floor of stone, dating from the Fifteenth Century, from France. “I really had no intention of selling the stones,” he said, “But a lady came into the booth and wanted to buy them. They are going to New York and will become her kitchen floor.” A pair of large iron banner weathervanes, American, circa 1860, hung on the back wall, and across the front of the booth was a three-piece granite chateau bench, Eighteenth Century, from France. Sales included a large zinc French clock face, a pair of campaign chairs, a fountain basin, six tall marble columns that will be installed in a garden in Bucks County, Penn., some garden edging and a tile-top table.
Across the aisle Michael Trapp of West Cornwall, Conn., was also busy writing sales slips. Two pairs of Ming garden seats, a large oil jar, several urns and many small objects were sold, but the show was not on a par with last year. “A year ago I had one of those shows you dream of having, but this year has not been as strong,” Michael said. A large French garden table with three pieces of marble as a top, French origin, 11 feet long, was also sold and heading for a penthouse in New York City. “I could have sold the table ten times,” Michael said, adding with a smile, “and I don’t have to deliver it.”
Treillage of New York City showed a single cast-iron French Nineteenth Century urn with ring handles, 26 inches in diameter, signed Val D’Osne, and a marble-top console on five forged scroll supports, 45 inches high and 631/2 inches wide. A Nineteenth Century Continental bench, cast-iron, 65 inches wide, was forged with human and animal faces on the arms.
“The preview was gangbusters, lots of sales, but things slowed down a bit once the show opened,” Kate Alex of Warner, N.H., said. She had sold a large cast-iron swan fountain, a pair of console tables in the Gothic style with wrought iron bases and marble tops, several urns, and a couple of birdbaths. Unsold was a large figure of Urwia, Muse of Astronomy, a marble carving from the Nineteenth Century and once decorating an estate in Newport, R.I.
A pair of tree surrounds, cast-iron, grapevine pattern, early Nineteenth Century, was shown in the booth of Aileen Minor of Centreville, Md. “The surrounds came from the property of a doctor’s office on the Eastern Shore,” Aileen said, adding, “such pieces are quite rare today.” A large pair of urns was from the Wm Adams Foundry, Philadelphia, with up-turned handles and applied swag and drapery decoration. Dating from the Nineteenth Century, the urns each measured 49 inches high and 34 inches in diameter.
A composition stone bench, semicircular seat with three supports, 59 inches long and 26 inches deep, circa 1900, was shown in the well-appointed booth of Barbara Israel of Katonah, N.Y. Of importance was a pair of carved granite Shishi lions, Japanese, the male with open mouth, circa 1920, 43 inches high and 39 inches long. Traditionally these figures would stand outside the gates of a Japanese Shinto shrine and Buddhist temple.
Brennan and Mouilleseaux of Pittsford, N.Y., were doing well and sales included a set of the four seasons, circa 1940, found in Pennsylvania. Each retained the old surface and measured 42 inches tall, including pedestal. A bronze fountain figure of a youth, Belgium or France, circa 1890, was signed Ponde Winde Swijnaerde, while a hand-formed cement bear with original paint, circa 1930, had originally hailed from Illinois.
A couple of major pieces sold from the booth of The Elemental Garden, Woodbury, Conn., including a whimsical life-size cast stone greyhound, mounted on a bluestone base, English, circa 1920. A Fiske fountain, in perfect working order, signed, 1874-92, zinc, with three putti figures on top with large shell, triple dolphins on the base, also sold during the opening preview.
Debra Queen of South Dartmouth, Mass., was doing her share of selling. Sales included a cast-iron twig bench, a fern bench and a pair of fern chairs, all cast-iron, several flower frogs and eight cast- iron corbels. Jeffrey Henkel of Pennington, N.J., was “very happy” with the show, selling “from high end bronzes to some basic stone pieces.”
“We have had a great deal of interest in the show this year and there have been many serious buyers here,” Catherine Sweeney Singer said. “People who come out to this show always seem to have a good time and many take time to visit the Botanical Garden and attend the lecture program.” In addition, Sculpture in The Garden will continue through August 31, featuring 15 pieces from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art. Included are works by Henry Moore, Elie Nadelman, Pablo Picasso and Auguste Rodin.
Lectures included “The making of Terra-Cotta: History and Mystery,” by Lenore Rice; “Nature into Art,” by Danielle Ann Millican; and “Central Park: An American Masterpiece,” Sara Cedar Miller. Even the show’s manager, Catherine, got into the act presenting “,” a walking tour of the show.
And finally, a Happy Birthday to Jay Cantor who gave himself a ticket to the preview party and was out enjoying the evening.
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