Published: March 29, 2011
“Well, the parking lot is full,” commented exhibitor Harold Cole with an optimistic glint in his eye as the doors opened to the public at the start of the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show on Saturday morning, March 12. And indeed the lot was full, not only the smaller lot immediately in front of the building, but also the sprawling lot that extends off to the side of the cavernous building.
Taking place over the weekend and presented by the Haddam Historical Society, this two-day show has long been a barometer of the health of the American antiques market. Renewed crowds, and not just in numbers, but also in what many dealers termed “quality” attendees, was exactly what everyone wanted to see. A little more buying would have been the icing on the cake for show manager Karen DiSaia and the 70 exhibitors.
While the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show remains the grand dame of antiques shows, still steeped with tradition, the DiSaia-piloted transformation that has taken place over the past few years has the spring show’s bloomers showing. But, hey, times have changed and along with the times, the market has changed, the buyers have changed, and, fittingly, the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show has changed. Thankfully, however, things have not become too risqué.
English furniture, jewelry and great folk art that never would have made it past the wave of Fran Phipps’s finger have become a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stagnant town. Phipps, the late and highly regarded originator of the Connecticut Antiques Show, maintained a pre-1840 rule for merchandise displayed on the show floor and her strict, and once important, guidelines put the Connecticut show on the map almost four decades ago.
Attractive and alluring, the show was filled with rare and wonderful merchandise. As would be expected, there was the stellar selection of early American furniture, along with an intriguing selection of tempting goodies that ranged from great pottery to silver and pewter. But it was the infusion of playful paintings by Twentieth Century artist Ralph Cahoon and great jewelry by Modernist and Taxco artists, displayed alongside or nearby banister back armchairs and highboys, that kept things interesting.
Salisbury, Conn., dealer Don Buckley of the early days in Hartford, doing business as Buckley and Buckley, was pleased with the show and stated he found those in attendance to be “better informed and more enthusiastic than at the last couple of shows.”
The dealer commented that it was a “fairly good show” and he noted several sales, some of which began in the week leading up to the event when the advertising for the show appeared in Antiques and The Arts Weekly . “I sold two of my great chairs from the appearance of my ad,” stated Buckley who featured several banister back great chairs in his advertisement, “and a third just after the show opened,” he said. The dealer also reported the sale of items that were “off the wall,” figuratively, including an early lithograph of the flagship Ohio and a well-done calligraphy of a leaping stag.
With his finger firmly measuring the pulse of the show, Newbury, Mass., dealer Peter Eaton was cautiously optimistic, despite having what he termed his “best Hartford” in four-to-five years. “There was a great crowd and all of the right people came to the show,” stated Eaton, although he commented that others, including himself, felt those attending the show to be somewhat “lethargic. Perhaps it was everything going on in Japan,” he said. “They just didn’t seem to have a lot of energy.”
Eaton stated that he was “surprised” with the number of sales made from his stand and said it was “nice that the better things were selling.” Two jewels from the booth found buyers early on: a rare Queen Anne country desk with a single drawer, shaped skirt and on well-carved and defined cabriole legs and a William and Mary tavern table from Rhode Island.
Eaton remarked that the rare desk had been recently reacquired from a collector to whom he sold it more than a decade ago. “It remains the only desk in this form that I have seen,” said Eaton of the rare example that he dated to circa 1760 and thought to be of eastern Connecticut or Rhode Island origin. The tavern table dated to circa 1720 and had “great turnings with much of the feet remaining.” Eaton stated that the table was from the Beane family of Kingston, Mass., and he remarked that he had “seen only two other tables with turnings of this type and quality in nearly 40 years †neither had the old surface or feet of this example.”
The dealer also reported the sale of a candlestand in putty paint, a blanket chest in old red paint and a five-drawer Connecticut Queen Anne tall chest.
Another exhibitor reporting a good show was Sagamore, Mass., dealer Brian Cullity, who sold a variety of materials. “For me, [Hartford] was good, there was an engaging crowd and I sold to a lot of old customers, as well as some new customers,” he said. The dealer reported quite a few retail sales, including a Chippendale cherry four-drawer chest from the Philadelphia region that he delivered to a client, and while making the delivery, the homeowner also purchased a Federal New England inlaid card table.
Cullity also commented that six pieces of high-end redware sold from his stand, going to three different private collectors. Included among the sales was a New York slip decorated porringer, a Long Island slip decorated plate and a piece from Maine.
Ever a proponent of the Connecticut show, Arthur Liverant, whose Colchester, Conn., business, Nathan Liverant and Son, has been a mainstay at the show since its inception, was one of the many who did not post favorable results. “The Haddam Historical Society did a wonderful job of advertising and they certainly got the people out to the show,” he said. Liverant was another to comment on the quality of the crowd, remarking that a “lot of serious collectors were there and there was definitely serious interest. There were good people there and they recognized the good things, but they are still tentative about spending money,” he said.
Sales from Liverant’s booth included a pair of Norwich, Conn., Chippendale cherry side chairs with shell carved backs and molded legs, circa 1770, and a smart-looking Federal sofa with reeded legs that listed an old provenance of Israel Sack.
Smalls were selling well at Thomas Longacre, Marlborough, Mass., with a host of red tags popping up on a variety of items moments after the show opened to the public. A hooked rug, a miniature carved wooden Noah’s Ark, a pawn broker’s sign and a rooster garden figure were quick sellers.
Louisville, Ky., dealer Dover House also had a brisk start, with a highboy selling right off the bat, as did a nice inlaid card table.
Items seen around the floor of interest included a rare 10-inch “wheel” barometer by New York maker Louis Smith, circa 1830, in the booth of Newville Lewis, The Barometer Shop, Cushing, Maine. “As far as barometers go, it is about as rare as it gets,” Lewis said.
Two stellar pieces of blue decorated stoneware were among the assortment of pottery in the booth of Mad River Antiques, North Granby, Conn., including a 4-gallon marked Bennington jar with a large deer reclining near a fence and pine tree in cobalt splashed across the front. Also displayed was a John Burger 6-gallon crock with large flowers surrounding a large grouse.
Quester Gallery, Rowayton, Conn., was a late addition to show, filling in after a last-minute, health-related cancellation by another dealer. Half-hulls, some measuring as long as 5 feet, were displayed alongside a ship’s figurehead and a stellar Antonio Jacobsen portrait of the American Tea Clipper , yet the item capturing the most attention was a whimsical and monumental Ralph Cahoon scene depicting two sailing ships in a bay with whales providing seating platforms for a host of alluring mermaids.
Booth chats have become a popular event in Hartford and three were scheduled for Sunday, with Lorraine German kicking things off with “How Women Express Themselves Through Quilts.” Henry Callan followed with “The Sampler: A Little Masterpiece,” and Wayne Hilt presented “Pewter in New England, its Many Uses.”
The Connecticut Spring Antiques Show is a benefit for the Haddam Historical Society and its Thankful Arnold House Museum. For information on the historical society, www.haddamhistory.org or 860-345-2400. For information regarding the show, www.ctspringantiquesshow.com or contact Karen DiSaia at 860-908-0076.
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